Friday, January 22, 2010

Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease

One of the latest movements in the world of dietary nutrition is the “Gluten Free Revolution.” Awareness of gluten sensitivity (allergies to gluten and its byproducts) and its extreme manifestation as Celiac disease, is on the rise. What really got my attention is the news of a first ever Celiac Vaccination trial underway in Australia. As you know, my position on vaccines is that they are often unsafe and unnecessary, and can frequently be replaced by proper diet, supplementation and healthy lifestyle habits to ensure immune strength.

Now there seems to be some debate amongst proponents of the gluten free movement, about the differences between gluten sensitivity and actual Celiac disease. I recently came across a NY Times Consults Blog titled “Confirming a Diagnosis of Celiac Disease” (1/12/10). Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition brought on by the body’s allergies to gluten, a protein found in wheat, and is currently identified as a hereditary condition associated with one or two specific genes. In a patient with Celiac disease, the body considers gluten a toxic substance and mounts an immune reaction with specific antibodies that then attack the intestinal walls, and can attack other areas of the body as well, causing serious problems in not only the digestive tract, but potentially the nervous system and major organs. Numerous findings are now associating Celiac disease with Diabetes Mellitus 1, Fibromyalgia, Autoimmune Hypothyroidism, Autism, and many others conditions and diseases

What the article did not mention is that many health practitioners, especially in the alternative field, are now using the term Gluten Sensitivity, or “Gluten Syndrome” in the absence of a positive Celiac diagnosis.  This may mean that although a patient may not have a Celiac diagnosis, they still have allergies to gluten and can exhibit similar, and sometimes equally severe, symptoms. The tests currently used to diagnose Celiac disease, like many tests, are not always accurate, producing a number of false positives and false negatives. And of course as many patients know, the unwillingness of some doctors in the current medical establishment to open their eyes to an upcoming yet illusive epidemic of potentially widespread consequence is always going to be a challenge for patients who seek accurate information on traditionally undiagnosable or misdiagnosed conditions. Common problems associated with Gluten Syndrome or Gluten Sensitivity are inflammatory conditions, gastrointestinal problems, autoimmune disorders, neurological and behavioral illness, skin diseases, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, endocrine issues, chronic fatigue and a host of other degenerative conditions.

A growing number of people who present such symptoms, and many other specific and generalized reactions to wheat and gluten, have tested negative for Celiac disease. However, after following a strict gluten free diet for even as little as a week or two, their symptoms clear up dramatically. Cutting out gluten for many people even without severe gluten allergies has resulted in increased energy and digestive health. Does this mean that gluten is an overall toxin? The debate on this issue is certainly heated. One thing for sure is that many wheat products today contain higher amounts of gluten than in previous times. Also, our ever increasing exposure to environmental toxins can trigger many autoimmune and allergic reactions in people that were previously absent, as their bodies defenses weaken in the fight against invaders. 

Integrative Digestive Formula and Pectasol Chelation Complex are two unique formulas that promote the elimination of toxins, reduce inflammation and support the GI system.  And fortunately, there is a fast growing demand for gluten free food products, and many new choices becoming available and affordable. If you suspect that you may have a gluten allergy, you can ask your doctor for the proper tests. However, if your diagnosis comes back negative, follow your gut!


  1. Wonderful! My son, Aden in 2nd grade, has a classmate just diagnosed with Celiac disease. I forwarded this information to her mom.

    Thank you,

  2. Hi good article, but you didn't mention that gluten is also present in barley, and rye, and a grain called triticale. Even though technically the protein names are different, the proteins in these grains and byproducts are also not tolerated by gluten sensitive people, and produce often the same symptoms. I guess everyone is different though!

  3. Thanks for your great information. If it weren't for blogs I would never have realized my own sensitivities to gluten.

  4. Great article! I am contacted by celiacs on a regular basis and my main advice is to remember that gluten is only one of the foods that can induce damage of the intestinal lining ( the villous atrophy of the small intestine seen in gluten intolerance). Casein from cow's milk, soy and corn can also do this.

    Many celiacs have multiple sensitivities to these "big 4" along with secondary food allergies to otherwise healthy foods. This we now know is due to the release of a hormone by the intestinal tract called "zonulin", which relaxes the immune barriers of the gut, facilitating nutrient absorption but also allowing items into the bloodstream that shouldn't normally get there. Secondary food allergies (e.g. eggs, tree nuts, shellfish, tropical fruits, tomatoes, meats, etc.) can result. It is not uncommon for celiacs to have multiple secondary food allergies. Testing can easily be done to determine these in serious cases.

    Thanks again for helping to increase the awareness of this incredibly common,potentially devastating, but very controllable condition.

    John B. Symes, DVM (aka "Dogtor J")

  5. This is one of great source of knowledge about celiac disease. Thanks for sharing :)