CD is a chronic autoimmune disorder that results in inflammation of the small intestine when a genetically susceptible person eats gluten. It results in the villi, which are the finger like projections in the intestines, becoming flattened. This flattening results in the inability of the intestines to absorb vital minerals necessary for life e.g calcium, magnesium, iron. Lack of absorption of these minerals results in conditions such as osteoporosis or iron deficiency. The principle gluten containing grains that affect coeliacs are wheat, barley and rye. The level of damage to the intestines can take up to between 40 and 50 years to manifest, therefore many people are not diagnosed until well into adulthood. Without proper diagnosis people are left open to a variety of other autoimmune diseases and a weakened immune system.
Ireland has one of the highest incidences of coeliac disease in the world and the problem is growing.
Non Coeliac Gluten/Wheat Sensitivity
Non Coeliac Gluten/Wheat Sensitivity on the other hand produces antibodies in the body if you are genetically susceptible, however we may not show any signs of intestinal damage or discomfort. It is a systemic disorder that can affect any tissue in the body without resulting in villous atrophy (flattening of the villi of the intestines).
It is a silent condition in many people. A person with any undiagnosed condition should consider testing for gluten sensitivity.
Conditions that may be associated with gluten/wheat sensitivity are as follows however there are many other reasons for these conditions as well.
• Dermititis Hepetiformais
• Crohens Disease
• Inflammatory Bowel Disease
• Allergies including seasonal allergies
• Food Sensitivity
• Neurological conditions
• Rhumatoid Arthritis
The term Non Coeliac Wheat sensitivity is often used now as wheat also contains other substances such as wheat germ agglutinin (lectins), gluteomophins and wheat amylase trypsin inhibitor plus many other substances that may not have even been discovered yet. If you feel that wheat or gluten is affecting you then your gut instinct is probably right.
Allergy to wheat is an allergic reaction to foods containing wheat. Wheat is hidden in many foods that we may not even suspect such as soy sauce, ketchup and beer just to name a few.
Wheat allergy is different to coeliac disease in that it is not an autoimmune disease. Symptoms include nasal congestion, itching, watery eyes, headache and in some people anaphylaxis which is life threatening.
Sensitivity to gluten/wheat or any other food on the other hand delivers more subtle reactions and could take hours or even days to manifest itself with symptoms.
The brain is particularly vulnerable to gluten. According to a research article: Lancet Neurol, 2010; gluten sensivity is a systemic autoimmune disease with diverse manifestations, neurological manifestations in patients with CD have been reported since 1966, however it was 30 years later that it was shown that some individuals with gluten sensitivity were shown to manifest solely with neurological dysfunction"
How do we test for Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivy
The elimination diet is one way. Eliminating any food for a month and reintroduction of that food slowly can produce a response if you are sensitive to it.
The same goes for gluten/wheat. Elimination and reintroduction of gluten could also produce a response, however as stated above there are many substances within wheat and we could be sensitive to any one of these. Gluten can affect any organ or tissue in the body and we can have circulating antibodies in our blood stream for years and not know it, however in some cases circulating antibodies can be predicted years in advance. We may not actually have any symptoms in this time-frame but all the while damage may be happening to specific organs.
Cyrexlabs Laboratories are now using blood samples to test for up to 10 components of wheat that can be related to a wheat/gluten sensitivity. These tests can tell us if we have elevated antibodies to particular peptides of wheat and also to certain tissues in our bodies years before our organs are affected. In coeliac disease people may have elevated antibodies years before they are diagnosed. Autoimmune disease and sometimes coeliac disease may not be diagnosed until there has been significant damage done to a particular organ. In other words autoimmune disease takes years to manifest itself but with Cyrex testing we can often detect certain markers in the blood years before they actually create any problems for us.
Cross reactivity of foods - what does this mean. The amino acid structure of some foods can be similar to the amino acid structure of certain tissues in our bodies. This can confuse the immune system.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan is an internationally recognized speaker and workshop leader specializing in the complications of Non-Celiac Gluten/Wheat Sensitivity and Coeliac Disease as they occur inside and outside of the intestines. He is the founder of www.theDr.com. He hosted the ‘The Gluten Summit – A Grain of Truth’, bringing together 29 of the world’s experts on Coeliac Disease and Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity at www.theglutensummit.com
Leading experts such as Dr Michael Marsh founder of the Marsh classification System of Intestinal Biopsy that is often used today to diagnose coeliac disease, Dr David Perlmutter, Neurologist and author of Grain Brain and Dr Aristo Vojdani, researcher, scientist and expert in environmental medicine have been interviewed on the gluten summit
Anyone with an interest in gluten sensitivity should take a look at the gluten summit or go to thedr.com website for further information
Lancet Neurol 2010; 9: 318-30