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Celiac vs Gluten Sensitivity. What's the difference?
Gluten, a protein found in wheat and wheat-like grains, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut, and other related grains, has been a hot topic. Many people ask the question why is gluten causing a bigger and wider spread problem then ever before. Many experts believe it is due to the fact that our grain today is highly Genetically Modified for such things as protein. Modified from what was once believed to be the staple of life, many grains have become the staple of widespread inflammation and IBS.
For years now I have been diagnosing patients with Gluten Sensitivity. I even had one patient who didn’t believe me he was Gluten Intolerant, or Gluten Sensitive and so he went to his RD (that stands for "Real Doctor") and got a test for Celiac Disease and guess what? He didn’t have Celiac Disease. He obviously didn’t need to go off gluten according to his RD, and the rest of the story is... he didn’t get better. I have also seen many many clinical cases where we have cured MS, failure to thrive syndrome, headaches, and the list goes on and on and on...not necessarily celiac diseased, but yes, having gluten sensitivity.
You might be interested to know that a new study has come out in the Journal BMC Medicine showing a ground breaking study on Gluten Sensitivity (Gluten Intolerance) and not celiac disease. The study is proving there is such a problem as gluten sensitivity where individuals being affected by the protein gluten do have a reaction in the intestines and the immune system caused by gluten which is different from celiac disease. "People aren't born with this. Something triggers it and with this dramatic rise in all ages, it must be something pervasive in the environment," says Joseph A. Murray, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"For the first time, we have scientific evidence that indeed, gluten sensitivity not only exists, but is very different from celiac disease," says lead author Alessio Fasano, medical director of the University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research.
The frustrating problem in the past for many patients was they had the exact symptoms like celiac disease, but when they would go to their doctor and tell them all their symptoms, get tested by drawing blood and getting a biopsy, the test would come back negative. This meant, according to the test, that they didn’t have celiac disease. If they didn’t have celiac disease then they were told it was, “all in their head.” Consequently, the doctor left it at that and the patient went back on the diet that was killing them in the first place.
Some of the signs and symptoms of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are: allergic reactions such as hives, congestion, runny nose, headaches, nausea, recurring abdominal bloating, joint/ muscle aches pains, swelling, the inability to lose weight or gain weight, various intestinal difficulties, anemia, gas, depression, tingling numbness in the legs, sores inside the mouth, painful skin rash on elbows, knees, and buttocks, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and 100 other symptoms can be linked to gluten intake, which can lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis, among others. Untreated, celiac disease raises risks of contracting certain stomach cancers by more than double.
In celiac disease, the immune system starts attacking the body’s own tissue. From continual attack on the body, the tiny finger like projections (villi) which absorb food in the intestine start to become flattened. I compare these villi, finger like projections, like shag carpet. The shag carpet in the gut creates massive amounts of surface area for food to be absorbed. As the antibodies continue to attack the gut, the villi become shortened or worn down, like commercial grade carpet. The fingers are rubbed down to nubs with minimal surface area. If this continues you get holes in your gut. This is called, “Leaky Gut Syndrome.” The food that leaks into the blood stream is now filtered by the overburdened liver which becomes congested and toxic.
Taking a closer look at the actual study from the University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research: Blood samples and intestinal biopsies were taken from 42 individuals with confirmed celiac disease, 26 with a suspected gluten sensitive (gluten intolerance), and 39 healthy individuals as the control group. Unlike the celiac subject, the gluten sensitive individual did not have the (“commercial grade carpet,”) flattened villi like the celiac disease subjects. The gluten sensitive individuals had an immune reaction different from the celiac individual. The immune reaction was that of an innate immunity. A type of immune system that is native to the body, or primitive. The body innately sets up barriers to protect against the foreign body (gluten). The celiac patient’s immunity was that of a more complex adaptive form that recognizes what appears to be foreign (gluten) and builds up the antibodies to fight it.
The body literally thinks that gluten is the enemy. It attacks it and starts to attack anything that looks like gluten. In warfare you have heard that many deaths come from “friendly fire.” This is when soldiers of the same side start attacking their own side, their own soldiers, their friends. This also happens in our body. Yes, as explained before our body attacks itself (autoimmune), but it also starts to attack anything else. It gets confused and attacks places like the thyroid and brain and leaves behind the aftermath of warfare which is inflammation. There have been patients who have come into our office who have been diagnosed with “MS,” after going off gluten completely, they no longer have “MS.” The biowarfare was gone and the aftermath (inflammation) was gone as well.
We know that inflammation becomes widespread throughout the body with gluten sensitivity, Marios Hadjivassiliou, a neurologist in Sheffield, England, says he found deposits of antibodies to gluten in autopsies and brain scans of some patients with ataxia, a condition of impaired balance.
How do you know if you have a problem with gluten. You can always get a simple blood test for celiac disease. If the test comes back positive, you will get a biopsy to confirm the celiac disease. Another non invasive way to check if you are sensitive to gluten is to go off gluten for at least 3-6 months, the longer the better. Researchers found that patients with autoimmune disease actually improved dramatically when they ate a gluten-free diet. “Organ-specific autoantibodies (i.e., thyroid antibodies) will disappear after 3 to 6 months of a gluten-free diet.”
(Digestive Diseases and Sciences, February 2000;45:403-406.)
If you notice a difference in your health for the better, stay off gluten and live Life to the Fullest.
You can explore this website (www.DontEatWheat.com) for helpful hints, tips, and support to cooking and eating gluten free.
We have an absolutely amazing Gluten/Dairy free class coming up on Tuesday, October 9th at 7-8pm in Lehi, Utah. If you're in the area and would like to attend please RSVP at donteatwheat(at)gmail.com or (801) 766-6580.
I’m Dr. Nielsen remember, Live In Fullness Everyday!
wife of a holistic doctor &
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