Research is now supporting evidence that there is a connection between viral infections, the immune system and the onset of gluten intolerance known as Celiac Disease.  A research project at the Academy of Finland’s Research Programme on Nutrition, food and Health (ELVIRA) has provided us with new information on the hereditary nature of gluten intolerance.

Dr. Muth read that they have identified genes that affect the immune system which causes an inflammatory response, which does not only affect the digestive tract. The genetic predisposition to celiac disease, with the major risk attributed to specific gene markers known as HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 in affected individuals.  HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 play an important part in the pathogenesis of celiac disease by binding to altered peptides derived from dietary gluten in wheat, barley, rye and oats.  Greater than 97% of celiac disease individuals have the DQ2 and/or DQ8 marker, compared to about 40% of the general population.

There are some genes that are linked with a human immune defense against viruses.  It is indicated that this virus may be connected in some way with the onset of gluten intolerance according to the Academy Research Fellow Paivi Saavaleainen, who has been conducting research on the hereditary risk factors.

Gluten Intolerance is an immune reaction!

Gluten intolerance is an autoimmune reaction in the small intestine however symptoms do not need to be limited to the digestive system.  Symptoms range from diarrhea, constipation, ADD, liver disease, cirrhosis, dermatological conditions, depression, and many more.

The genes that predispose people to gluten intolerance are widespread in the current population.  The data shows that roughly one in 133 people suffer from Celiac Disease, while one in four suffer from gluten intolerance in this country.

Gluten intolerance is an inherited predisposition, and nearly all sufferers carry the genes that play a key role in the onset of the disease.  Genes are directly handed down from both parents.  Genes can also be passed on by skipping a generation.  If patients are concerned about being gluten intolerant they can obtain genetic testing from EnteroLab to determine their genetic status.  People can posses the gene for Celiac Disease or wheat sensitivity.  Genes can be evaluated on entire families by swab the inside of the cheek.  If you suspect celiac disease or a person in your family has celiac disease it is essential to know if you carry the genes. You may be symptom-free, but still have celiac disease.  If you are not aware and continue to consume products that contain gluten this could have serious consequences if not treated.

Currently the only available treatment is following a strict gluten-free diet.  Gluten occurs naturally in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye.  Exposure to these grains causes damage to the intestinal villi, resulting in malabsorption of the basic nutrients from the foods they eat.  It can be expected to take a minimum of six months to become gluten-free from just the obvious sources of gluten.  Expect another six months to locate all the hidden sources of gluten in ones diet.  In order to obtain a completely gluten-free diet one can expect it to take from one to two years to completely eliminate gluten and heal the intestinal tract from the inflammation that has occurred.  Patients who continue to consume gluten during this time will have a longer recovery time because every exposure to gluten starts that inflammatory process all over again.

Celiac disease is on the rise and because it affects so many people you are sure to experience numerous patients in your practice with this disorder.  It is important to have a basic understanding of the disease and some of you may decide to become experts in this area.  Many disorders can be effectively managed by having patients follow a gluten-free diet.

It is important to work with the immune system which includes avoiding gluten as well as using immune building herbs.  Using Glutathione and SOD can help.  Learning if the immune system is stimulated or dominate with TH1 or TH2 makes all the difference in the world to assist in healing the immune system.

There are many resources that can assist you and your patients in teaching patients about becoming gluten-free.  A great resource is www.celiacdisease.org

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Dr. Muth interviewed for US News & World Report, "5 Ways to Mitigate the Financial Downside of a Disability" Click here to read the full interview. (PDF)