Thursday, February 7, 2013

Discovery of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity


Gluten-Free, Whether You Need It or Not

All my life I have suffered from painful, sporadic stomach aches after eating pasta or wheat based meals. These stomach pains started getting so bad that I decided to see a specialist to determine the cause of my ailment. After numerous blood tests, special diets, and an endoscopy my doctor told me that I had non-celiac gluten sensitivity and was immediately put on a gluten-free diet. I had heard of celiac disease before but had never heard of this condition. According to my doctor more and more people are showing up with symptoms similar to Celiac disease but do not have the actual disease and thus medical professionals have started calling this condition non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This condition’s main quality is, just like it sounds, sensitivity to gluten products and has risen among Americans in the past years due to the increase in gluten- based products.

 According to a New York Times Health Science Article, it is speculated that 1/100 Americans have Celiac disease, which is a genetic mutation that causes the inability of the human digestive system to break down the repeating patterns of amino acids found in glutenin and gliadin, which are proteins found only in gluten based products like wheat, barley, rye and oats. When the pieces of these proteins are passed through the intestine they are mistaken as foreign invaders and cause the immune system to attack them on the villi attached to the walls of the intestine, which provide the body with nutrients. The damage affects a person’s ability to absorb nutrients properly and can become malnourished no matter how much food they eat. Wheat entered the human diet only about 10,000 years ago, with the invention of farming.
 “For the previous 250,000 years, man had evolved without having this very strange protein in his gut… And as a result, this is a really strange, different protein, which the human intestine cannot fully digest. Many people did not adapt to these great environmental changes, so some adverse effects related to gluten ingestion developed around that time.” Dr. Stefano Guandalini, medical director of the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center
Over the years more and more varieties of wheat is grown containing higher levels of gluten, which helps produce the soft inside and crusty outside desirable in bread. This has caused more cases of celiac disease to emerge and now this new condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity that has symptoms similar to celiac disease but do not have the same antibodies or intestinal damage associated with celiac disease. There is no known cause of either conditions and thus there is no prevention or cure. The only treatment is to live a life on a gluten-free diet, although it does not have to be strictly followed for those with the gluten sensitivity.

The gluten-free diet was very difficult to follow at first. You cannot eat any products containing wheat, barley or rye and sometimes oats because they can contain contaminated gluten products. Anything prepackaged is also out because even if the products themselves do not originally contain gluten they can be made in an area of a factory or company where there once was gluten products. All natural foods like fruits, vegetables, rice, corn, and potatoes are staples of the gluten-free diet. Fresh meat, poultry and fish are also fine but they can’t be breaded or made with regular gravy or sauces.

The diet is very limiting at first and I ended up losing a lot of weight because I didn’t feel comfortable eating anything. However after a while I discovered products like corn and rice based muffins, breads, pizza, and pasta. There is no beneficial difference between a regular diet and a gluten free diet for a person without the gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. In fact the muffins and breads contain less vitamins and fiber than the wheat based items but with all the same butter and sugar content. People have to be very careful when going on a gluten free diet because they often have the mentality that if it says its “Gluten-Free” then it must be healthy when in reality it still has the same fat and sugar content. Since being on the gluten-free diet my stomachaches have nearly vanished and also my seasonal allergies have been limited as well. I don’t always keep strictly to the diet but I do make a big effort to avoid the gluten-based foods in the grocery store and my stomach feels much better because of it. 

Posted by Celina Keating (1)

7 comments:

  1. Gabrielle Wertheim (3)February 7, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    I can totally relate to your situation! I have been struggling with consistent stomach aches for the past 6 years and have seen numerous specialists and had countless tests performed in order to determine my aliment, however, no diagnosis has been made. After reading your blog I've now learned about this new diagnosis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity which I don't believe is something I was checked for, and now makes me think I should get tested again. So, thanks so much for informing me of this new condition of celiac disease because it may be the explanation i've been looking for for all these years!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad this article has helped you in determining a cause of your stomach pains. Unfortunately there are no tests for this condition. The article says it best when it says that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is more of a "description" rather than a diagnosis. My doctor told me that the only way to figure out if you have it is to go on an all gluten-free diet for about 4 weeks and then go back to a regular gluten containing diet after and see how you feel. I hope everything works out for you!

      Delete
  2. This post highlights the importance of various biological subjects (genetics, evolution, food science, and molecular biology). It unifies all these subjects and it makes me wonder if by gaining greater knowledge in these field, a cure will be found in the future. As with many genetic conditions, it can be hard adapting to a new lifestyle. Hopefully by investing more time and effort in performing more tests on this condition, a cure can be found.
    Posted by Marshall Moini

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really hope you are correct. New innovations in DNA sequencing as well as advances in genetics and epigenetics may help lead to new discoveries that will give us an answer to either the cause of these kinds of mutations or a solution to the problem.

      Delete
  3. I found the point about wheat being "new" to the human diet especially interesting. It is something I had never thought of before, seeing as almost every meal I eat contains some wheat product, but it also makes a lot of sense. I have heard that the reason peanut allergies are rising is due to the greater exposure to peanut products, and the parallel with wheat is pretty cool.

    Michael Ball (1)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, the parallel between a deteriorating health and wheat production is really interesting. I read another study, "Disease and Death at Dr. Dickson's Mounds" where an anthropologist, Don Dickson, looked at the remains of Native Americans before and after the introduction of agriculture for food staples like wheat and corn. He found that the people of each community experienced shorter lifespans, smaller stature, weaker bones and teeth due to malnutrition, and a greater infant mortality rate. This study shows that it was clear from the beginning that to live on a diet solely based around 1 product like wheat and not eating enough fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meats can have severe consequences over long and short periods of time.

      Delete
  4. This article was very interesting. I have a friend back home who found out they have Celiac's Disease two years ago and she also had a tough time adjusting to the new diet, but finds it very easy now. Especially since it helps her not to feel awful all the time. I was wondering if because the wheat is relatively "new" to human diet, why we are developing more issues eating gluten? I would initially think that our bodies would have adapted to better utilize gluten, not the other way around.
    Bryan Cohoon

    ReplyDelete