Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease.  The lining of the small intestine is damaged from eating gluten and other proteins found in rye, barley, wheat and oats.  Some gastrointestinal symptoms are abdominal pain, bloating, gas and indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, lactose intolerance, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss.  There are also nonintestinal symptoms like: anemia, bone and joint pain, easy bruising, depression, fatigue, hair loss, skin disorders, seizures and malnutrition.  Symptoms can vary significantly from person to person.  Unfortunately a lot of these symptoms can mean a host of other disorders too.

Celiac disease is also known as gluten sensitive enteropathy.  Gluten makes bread doughy and sticky.  Gluten is also used as an adhesive on stamps.  It is found in grains such as wheat (not in wheatgrass juice), rye, spelt, barley, kamut, triticale, semolina and durham, but not in oats (although oats are often grown on former wheat fields causing cross contamination).  In celiac disease the immune system begins to produce antibodies when exposed to gluten.  These antibodies attack the fingerlike projections (microvilli) which line our small intestines.  This is where we absorb the nutrients for our body.  When these microvilli are attacked and destroyed, the body is unable to nourish itself with vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats.  The list of dis-eases associated with celiac are too many to list; from asthma to multiple sclerosis.  If you already have a known autoimmune disease, you could be at risk for developing celiac disease.  Someone can become sensitized to gluten at any time of life.  It also runs in families and women are more affected than men.  There is no exact cause of celiac, making it impossible to prevent.  However, we already know it is healthier for every part of your body to stay away from processed foods.

Wheat as a raw grain is unsafe to eat.  Wheat flour must be heated to destroy the enzyme blockers and lectins within the grain to allow for its consumption.  Anytime we alter food from its original nature state we are processing the food.  Some healthy alternatives to wheat are quinoa and brown rice which are much less processed.  The aisles of the grocery store are now stocked with gluten-free alternatives.  I just picked up some gluten-free pretzels, which someone told me are better than regular pretzels.  I also love the gluten-free fig cookies.

Eating a gluten-free diet will allow the intestinal villi to heal.  Read food labels and medication labels carefully.  Hidden sources of grains, wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats, are found in many products.  If you have some of these symptoms and you feel better if you do not eat gluten, please contact your doctor.  Being tested is the only way to diagnose this disease.  I have stomach issues when I eat gluten and when I’m under stress at the same time.  Other times, I fine.  I try to stay away from processed foods.  Left untreated, celiac can cause chronic inflammation eventually causing complete atrophy and flattening of the microvilli.

Gluten can also impact the brain.  When a patient has full blown celiac it can cause chronic inflammation of the brain and nervous system which will impact function of these systems.  Gluten also contains glutamate.  This substance causes excessive excitation of brain cells which ultimately results in brain cell damage and brain cell death. 

We need to protect the body with proper nutrition, exercise, relaxation and give the body what it needs to properly get rid of offending foods, toxins and microbes it does not need.  I’ve said many times the body has the ability to heal itself.  We’ve been eating unhealthy for many years, we can not expect healing to happen overnight.  New and improved versions of gluten make it harder and harder for our bodies to fight infection, inflammation and disease.  We need to return to a diet full of nutrients that promote health and longevity and prevent dis-ease.  Gluten is responsible for so many symptoms, that I believe taking gluten out of our diets can only benefit us.

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