OLDER RESEARCH ON GLUTEN SENSITIVITY
Although there is abundant research on GLUTEN SENSITIVITY, much of it --- especially that which is a bit older ---- pertains specifically to Celiac Disease, which is an AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE of the Small Intestine. For more about the relationship between Gluten and Autoimmunity, go HERE.
The point I would like to get across is that according to the latest research, only a small fraction of those who are Gluten Sensitive actually have Celiac Disease. However, many of the same things that are true about Celiac Disease are also true of non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. I tell you this so that when you read some of the conclusions of the research I am going to present today, you can have a better understanding of what is going on in the field of Gluten Research by substituting the words "Gluten Sensitivity" for "Celiac Disease". Although there will be many who will argue against this point to the bitter end, the proof is in the fact that I see miracle after miracle after medical miracle, simply as the result of pulling patients off of Gluten.
To get the ball rolling, I will mention a study that was published in the March, 2010 issue of Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. The study, (Celiac Disease) concluded that, "In the last year, work has shown that the prevalence of celiac disease has increased dramatically, not simply due to increased detection. Also, undiagnosed celiac disease may be associated with increased mortality." We are going to discuss both of these topics today and then end by asking ourselves why Celiac Disease is increasing dramatically. But first let's look at a study that gives us a glimpse into how much higher the incidence of mortality (death) really is.
GLUTEN SENSITIVITY & INCREASED MORTALITY
A military study was published in the July 2009 issue of the medical journal Gastroenterology (Increased Prevalence and Mortality in Undiagnosed Celiac Disease). This study revealed that over the past half century, the incidence of Celiac Disease has increased sevenfold from 1 in 700 to 1 in 100. Furthermore, the study concluded that, "undiagnosed Celiac Disease was associated with a nearly 4-fold increased risk of death. The prevalence of undiagnosed Celiac Disease appears to have increased dramatically in the United States during the past 50 years." In other words, if your body is making antibodies against Gluten and you are not aware of this fact (i.e. you never go on and adhere to a GLUTEN FREE DIET), your chances of dying from any cause goes up almost 400%. Gulp!
The elephant in the corner is that we already know that the vast majority of those with Celiac Disease are never diagnosed, and that the vast majority of those with Gluten Sensitivity do not actually have Celiac Disease. In fact, if you look at the results of a study that was published in a 2006 issue of the medical journal Gut, you learn that Gluten Sensitivity is somewhat like an iceberg, where as much as 90% of it lies unseen below the water's surface. This begs the question of how big the 'Gluten' iceberg really is. Gut told us eight years ago that, "these figures suggest that the current ratio of clinically diagnosed to undetected cases — that is, “the size of the iceberg”—in the UK is approximately 1 in 8." In other words, 87.5% of the iceberg is hidden under the water. The whole while, THE TITANIC roars on full steam ahead (HERE also).
GLUTEN & TYPE I DIABETES
Just over a decade ago in the May, 2004 issue of The Review of Diabetic Studies, we learned more about the connection between Type I Diabetes and Gluten Sensitivity (Elimination of Dietary Gluten and Development of Type 1 Diabetes in High Risk Subjects). The study's abstract stated that, "exposure to dietary gluten in offspring of mothers and fathers with Type 1 Diabetes very early in life is associated with an increased risk of developing islet antibodies also suggest that removal of dietary gluten should be tested as early as possible in children with an increased risk of islet autoimmunity, i.e. before an immune response to islet antigens is established." Allow me to explain what this statement really means.
The "islets" they are talking about here (Islets of Langerhans) refers to the part of the pancreas that makes hormones (Glucagon, Amylin, Somatostain, Pancreatic Polypeptide, Ghrelin, and yes, Insulin).
In other words, if your mom or dad are Gluten Sensitive, you have a much greater chance of developing the Autoimmune form of Diabetes (Type I) than someone with a non-Gluten Sensitive mother. And as astounding as it might seem, early adherence to a Gluten Free diet has been shown to halt the development of Type I Diabetes in this group. Need more evidence? A Danish study published just last month showed that a Gluten Free diet done prenatally (via mom's diet) or early in life via mother's milk, significantly reduces the risk of developing Type I Diabetes --- a big deal considering incidence in America has skyrocketed in recent years to 3 million, is increasing by about 3% per year, and increased by almost 25% over during the decade of the 1990's.
GLUTEN AND THE BRAIN
Although I have warned you about the fact that the majority of the symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity are neurological (HERE and HERE), believe me when I tell you that I was just beginning to scratch the surface. Try this on for size. Back when I was a sophomore in high school (my 30 year class reunion is a week from tomorrow), a study was published in the January 1982 issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology saying that, "Psychiatric illness has been observed to be a main cause of disability in undiagnosed adult Celiac Disease..... Our results suggest that depressive psycho-pathology [i.e. DEPRESSION] is a feature of adult Celiac Disease." To make matters worse, the November 2006 issue of the Journal of Attention Disorders published a study saying that the results, "suggest that Celiac Disease should be included in the list of diseases associated with ADHD-like sypmtomology." HERE is some more information on ADD / ADHD for those who are interested. And from a 2007 issue of Nature Clinical Practice Neurology; this one will knock your socks off. A case study done at the University Department of Clinical Neurology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, England, revealed, "Celiac Disease with neurological involvement, mimicking amyotrophic lateral sclerosis." In other words, these specialists are saying that ALS (Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis --- the medical name for "Lou Gherig's Disease") --- a devastating progressive neurological disease that physically decimates suffers prior to killing them, can be mimicked by Gluten Sensitivity.
I hope that you are starting to see that for growing numbers of people, Gluten is a problem --- a serious problem, which is often made worse by medical denial (HERE). If you are like me, you are probably wondering how a Biblical food like wheat could possibly be the culprit in so many widley varied disease processes. The answer can be found HERE. If you are wondering about the best way to go about getting off of Gluten, I would suggest that you take a couple of minutes to read our GLUTEN-FREE ELIMINATION DIET post.
Dr. Schierling completed four years of Kansas State University's five-year Nutrition / Exercise Physiology Program before deciding on a career in Chiropractic. He graduated from Logan Chiropractic College in 1991, and has run a busy clinic in Mountain View, Missouri ever since. He and his wife Amy have four children (three daughters and a son).