I’ve been asked to do some consults with people with Celiac Disease and Gluten intolerance coming up the next few weeks, so I thought I would prepare here on my little blog. It’s a lot to take in and my blogs tend to get long, so I am breaking it up into segments.
So what is Celiac Disease or gluten-intolerance? Essentially it is a disorder of the intestines. Our digestive tract and intestines are protected by physical and chemical barriers so when we digest potential antigens from bacteria and foods we have enzymes and gastric juices that protect us. Our immune systems under normal conditions can recognize the foreign and harmful antigens and destroy them. But in the case of Celiac Disease (caused by genetic susceptibility and an unknown trigger) exposure to gluten causes an abnormal immune response; gluten for some strange reason is targeted as a bad guy.
Gluten refers to specific peptides in proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley. Oats are also considered a gluten product, because like I mentioned previously, they are almost always processed with other gluten products therefore exposing oats to the gluten protein. Gluten is responsible for the spring and stretchiness in breads.
Celiac Disease has become so “popular” the past few years because previously the disease was mistaken for Irritable Bowl Syndrome because the symptoms are so similar; loose stools, constipation, fatigue, bloating, cramping, weight fluctuations, etc . These terribles happen because people with Celiac Disease have a marked reduction of villi in their intestines
Villi are these little finger-like projections that line your lumen or intestinal tract. This is one of those physical barriers that protects your insides from damage. The picture above shows some normal healthy villi, and the picture below shows what happens to those sensitive to gluten. Doesn’t look pretty, and you can bet it doesn’t feel pretty either. If the disease is untreated the villi becomes so damaged it can no longer secrete the enzymes that break down proteins, fats, and starches. AKA a person will no longer be able to absorb nutrients and will soon be faced with many other nutrition related problems. Anemia, weight loss, dermatitis, issues of the liver and gallbladder, even as old school as beri-beri perhaps.
Sounds fun right? And unfortunately the only treatment is a gluten-free diet alone. And I’m talking a life long diet, not one of those 3 month Jenny Craig’s.