By: Carla Spacher
Once antibodies were discovered as a way of testing for celiac disease, it opened up an entirely new way of assessing the data found in celiac disease research. Dr. Alessio Fasano, Medical Director for University of Maryland School of Medicine (update 2015 – now at the Massachusetts General Hospital), reported that, previously, doctors had to diagnose celiac disease based upon the patient’s symptoms; biopsy of the gut to confirm inflammation; and whether a gluten-free diet provided any relief. However, as is with any autoimmune disease, Dr. Fasano warns that just screening for antibodies against gluten is not a definitive diagnosis because anyone can carry this antibody who does not necessarily have celiac disease. Celiac Disease research continues and we are learning new things every day. Learn more about celiac disease, ongoing research and about the roles of probotics and the appendix.
Celiac disease originates not only from consuming gluten, but from multiple factors: predisposition to the genes (heredity), and abnormalities in the small intestine. Gluten causes the villi (hair-like follicles that move the food through the small intestines like little fingers), to become damaged and chronically inflamed. This results in prevents the villi from moving the food/waste and from absorbing and distributing proper nutrients.
Dr. Fasano’s research shows that an environmental trigger, inheritance of specific genes and a gut abnormality may play a role not only in celiac disease, but in many autoimmune disorders. The gut is the hub of our bodies.
The usual symptoms of celiac disease is chronic indigestion and chronic diarrhea. These only manifest when large and critical portions of the intestine are damaged. If only a small portion is damaged the symptoms may go unnoticed or be mistaken for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or even colitis (inflammation of the large intestine). Dr. Fanso states that because most celiacs present unusual symptoms the disease often goes undiagnosed.
When celiac patients stay on a gluten-free diet, the small intestines usually return to normal, or improves significantly. However, when an individual with celiac disease ingests gluten, an enzyme is produced called tissue transglutaminase. When intestinal cells are damaged, that enzyme leaks out the cell into the small intestine and attempts to help heal the tissue around it.
New Discoveries and Research
People are being diagnosed with celiac disease later in life now. It would make complete sense to assume that they had a mild case, without much inflammation and now it is has worsened. However, Dr. Fasano explains, that it has to do with the bacteria that lives in the digestive tract. The bacteria may differ from person to person and from one population to another, and may change in time. This bacteria also has influence over whether a particular gene is active or not. Therefore, one year you can be fine and then the next develop a gluten intolerance. If this theory is correct, one day celiac disease may be treated with probiotics.
An article on PubMed on intestinal dysfunction states that probiotics, among other things, create a protective effect on cell passages. heir research also shows that intestinal barrier dysfunction (leaky gut) is associated with various intestinal and non-intestinal disorders including inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and diarrhoeal infection.
Nexpep, an Australian company, is researching a vaccine that would expose the immune system to small amounts of gluten. The theory being that given small doses of over a period of time would eventually build up a tolerance to gluten, much like a homeopathic remedy.
I can imagine everyone with celiac disease will want to begin a probiotic regimen, if not already doing so. As stated above, this is still being researched. However, you may be delighted to know that in 2007 researchers discovered that our appendix stores good bacteria (probiotics). They assume that the purpose of our appendix is to flush out any bad bacteria in the gut, say when we get a bout of diarrhea, and regenerate the good bacteria. I am sure you thought it was odd that our tonsils and appendix had no use. Just like we were told there were only 9 planets! Oh yes, one was found out that it wasn’t a planet and then they found another! Therefore, we still have 9. More to come?
Just remember that doctors don’t know everything. Know your body and manage your health!
I am not a doctor or medical professional. I am just sharing my interpretation of my research. Verify this yourself by reading the articles in full linked above.