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Celiac Disease and Its Relationship to Modern Wheat by Cheryl Glaeser

By at November 3, 2012 | 11:47 am | Print

Celiac Disease and Its Relationship to Modern Wheat by Cheryl Glaeser

Celiac Disease (CD) is an inherited autoimmune condition that damages the small intestinal lining and prevents it from absorbing many of the breakdown products of digestion.  CD is a chronic, lifelong disease that affects children and adults alike.  This damage is due to the body’s reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.  When an affected person eats foods containing gluten, the villi, the absorptive lining of the intestinal tract, are damaged reducing their ability to absorb nutrients.  Chronic damage to these absorptive surfaces causes the symptoms associated with CD, even though one’s caloric intake may be adequate.  Although it is possible for anyone to get CD, Caucasians, persons of European decent, and women are at greater risk of developing clinical disease.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease vary greatly, but are primarily related to the gastrointestinal tract.  The most common symptoms are constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, gas or indigestion.  Nausea, vomiting, weight loss and anorexia may also accompany this condition.  Other symptoms may develop over time as the disease progresses.  These are due to the malabsorption of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in the food that is ingested.  Bruising, mental disorders, skin or hair defects, growth defects, neuropathies, and musculoskeletal pain among other symptoms may be noted.  Since CD has many and varied symptoms and clinical presentations, diagnosis is often difficult or delayed until the disease is more advanced.

Diagnosis of Celiac Disease is made with evaluation of physical exam findings along with a thorough history and suggestive lab findings.  Lab findings correlate to malnutrition due to malabsorption of nutrients from the intestinal tract.  Blood work may indicate a low albumin, elevated liver enzymes, low cholesterol, anemia, increased Alkaline Phosphatase due to bone loss, and clotting factor abnormalities.  Endoscopic intestinal biopsy may be used to confirm a diagnosis of CD, although antibody tests may now allow some to avoid this more invasive test.  In some, genetic testing can be used to determine risk factors related to CD.

Some researchers now believe that the explosion of Celiac Disease, along with other wheat related illnesses, may be due to the hybridization of ancient wheat to accommodate the world’s population growth.  Many of the genetic changes involve the portion of the genetic code related to wheat glutens.  Increased glutens in wheat allow breads to rise and give a desirable texture to modern wheat products.  These rapid changes to the genetic code over the past 50 years may be enhancing the number of immune reactions noted with CD patients.  The explosion of the diagnosis of CD and other wheat related diseases such as Diabetes Mellitus parallels the modern hybridization of wheat.  During this time in history, wheat containing foods have increased exponentially due to the increased worldwide availability of cheap wheat flour.

What started as a noble mission to feed the world’s hungry is now the cause of a new health crisis.  Western diets high in wheat containing ingredients now cause many modern-day diseases that are threatening collapse of the American healthcare system.  Although this theory has not been proven, the relationships between modern wheat and CD are obvious.  The treatment for Celiac disease and other associated illnesses is the exclusion of wheat-containing products from the patient’s diet.  Over time, clinical symptoms will gradually recede for those able to follow a strict gluten-free diet.  This sounds like an easy treatment, but CD patients must read food labels carefully, as wheat product are commonplace in many foods, especially highly processed food items.  New government labeling requirements will hopefully provide those with CD an easier time in making good food choices to avoid symptoms of Celiac Disease.

References

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001280/

http://www.celiac.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=9

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health. William Davis

 

 

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