Living Healthy with Celiac Disease
By Debra E Dallas, PhD,MIfHI,CI
What is Celiac Disease?
Steak, potatoes, grilled veggies, grape tomatoes.
Broiled Cod, sauteed spinach, grape tomatoes, feta cheese and capers
Celiac disease is a genetic disorder, not a food allergy or food intolerance. It is inherited from another family member, but does not have to be in the immediate family. A gene in the DNA that turns Lewis A to Lewis B is missing. Lewis is a blood typing system that is used to determine secretor status. Everyone is born Lewis A, most of us have a gene that turns Lewis A to Lewis B. Determining secretor status is a better indicator for determining if a person has celiac disease than the blood antibody test or scoping the intestinal tract.
Testing for secretor status is a saliva test that indicates whether a person is a secretor or non-secretor. Most people are secretors. That means that they express their blood type on all their cells except the cells in the spinal fluid. Secretors can sequester antibodies when antigens (invaders) enter the body by mouth, the nose, or through bodily fluid. This is the body’s first line of defense, the immune system. Non-secretors only express their blood type on the red blood cell, so antigens enter the body at will, and until they reach the blood, antibodies are not sequestered. Most non-secretors have celiac disease.
People that have celiac disease must not eat any foods that have gluten. Gluten is a protein that is in most grains. When gluten enters the digestive tract of a person with celiac disease, the gluten binds to the microvillus and instead of entering the blood stream, the endothelial cells sequester antibodies from the Peyer’s patches, which are lymph nodes in the intestinal tract, and the antibodies attack the gluten on the microvillus, destroy them, and eventually cause the villus to atrophy. This attack on the intestinal tract over and over again causes leaky gut syndrome, candidiasis, and many other progressive and auto-immune disorders.
A person can live a perfectly healthy life if the disease is diagnosed early. The problem is most people suffer for years before a correct diagnosis has been reached and much damage has occurred in the body. It is not isolated to the intestinal tract; it may start there, but definitely does not stop there. Other issues as eczema, psoriasis, hives, elevated liver enzymes, kidney stones, and many more, can result from this attack on the intestinal tract.
Which Foods Contain Gluten?
It is easier to start with the foods that do not contain gluten. All the foods that God gave us, except for some grains, are gluten free. Many, many foods that man makes contain gluten. Celiacs can eat all they want of the following foods as long as they are in the natural form: Meats, fish, fruit, vegetables, dairy (a couple exceptions), nuts, beans, and some grains as rice, millet, buckwheat, teff, quinoa, and oats (specific brands), and beverages as teas, coffee, juice, clear sodas, mineral water, and wine, tequila, potato vodka, and brandy. Foods that contain gluten are: Breads, muffins, rolls, bagels, wraps, crackers, pretzels, pasta, pizza, hot and cold cereals, breading and breaded foods, many beverages as colored sodas, beer, whiskeys, and most vodkas, to name a few. There are many foods, as lunch meat, Balsamic Vinegar, and other condiments that one would never expect to contain gluten, but many add caramel color, which contains gluten. It is believed that the caramel color in the United States is the only safe caramel color. The truth is, it is not safe, the Food and Drug Administration raised the level of gluten in foods to be able to label them gluten free. It does not mean that they are, as Celiacs can have NO gluten.
Today almost all foods that contain gluten can be found in a gluten free form. Living with celiac disease is easier today than it ever has been. So many companies have jumped on the “gluten free band-wagon.” Restaurants are becoming gluten friendly also, they may have a separate gluten free menu, or at least they are knowledgeable of it. The problem with restaurants is contamination, which is a big concern for people trying to eliminate gluten. Even in our own kitchens we have to be very vigilant; a separate toaster is a must and washing the counter surfaces before placing gluten free foods on them is very important.
When people learn that they have celiac disease, it is a life changing experience. Although most people think that their life is over as they know it, it is true, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Most people’s diet leaves room for improvement and most of us only eat twenty foods, more or less, anyway. The trick is to replace the foods that have gluten with the same foods that are made gluten free. Eliminating your favorite gluten foods is not necessary; simply substituting them is the key. This also opens up the opportunity to explore fresh foods that you normally would not have tried.
What Are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
The reason that celiac disease goes undiagnosed for years is the symptoms are so wide and varied that many people that have been struggling with strange symptoms for years end up on drugs to treat their symptoms. Their symptoms are ones that are diagnosed as digestive problems or disorders, as Crohn’s disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and the underling cause is celiac disease but not identified. Only a lucky few are diagnosed early and when they are, so much damage has occurred that recovery takes a long time. Sometimes, as with my own family, by the time it is correctly diagnosed digestive organ cancers have already set in.
A Celiac must eat 100% gluten-free for the rest of their lives, no exception. Symptoms of celiac disease are, but not limited to: Nausea, vomiting, intestinal pains, gas, bloating, IBS, Crohn’s diseases, diverticulitis, migraines, rashes, ulcers in the mouth, inflammation in the arteries, constipation, diarrhea, etc, etc, etc,…. (Lapid, Nancy, 2009). My personal symptoms are extreme irritability and shingles.
It is interesting when undiagnosed people acknowledge that they are worse around the holidays, and when the holidays are over and they go on the Atkin’s Diet to lose the pounds they packed on over the holidays; they felt “so much better”!!! That makes perfect sense. What are we doing around the holidays? We are eating gravy on the turkey and stuffing, crescent rolls, and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, and cookies and lots of alcohol on Christmas and New Years Eve. The Atkins Diet is a diet that limits carbohydrates; PERFECT! (Grieger, Lynn, n.d.). Gluten is present in most carbohydrates. As mentioned earlier, today grocery stores are much more celiac friendly; simply go to the gluten free section in your grocery store and ALWAYS check the labels.
How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
The most common test for celiac disease is the Blood Antibody Test. What they do is draw blood, look at it under a microscope and determine if there are antibodies to gluten in the blood. The only problem with this test is that blood changes hundreds of times in the course of the day, so much of the time this test comes up false negative. If the test comes up negative, they may schedule the patient to be scoped down through the mouth into the duodenum. Here they are looking for damaged epithelium in the duodenum and they will take some tissue for a biopsy. The only problem with that is that the damage acquired by celiac disease is not in the duodenum, it is in the jejunum, too far down for the scope to go. Then possibly a rectum scope will be scheduled, but again, the damaged area is too far up for the scope to go. If the patient has extended damage in the intestinal tract, then it may show up in one or both of these tests, but most of the time it is an another false negative. Many people will be told the their problem is a hiatel hernia. Well, how did that happen? The intestines are inflammed from leaky gut and pushing up on the stomach. How did this person get such severe leaky gut? Could it be celiac disease?
In my opinion, the best diagnosis is acquired through Iridology with diagnostic software. The program that is used in Iridology exhibits the condition of the Peyer’s patches, intestinal tract, and all the digestive organs. Another good way to tell is by eliminating gluten for a few months, if you feel like a new person then you at least have "frankengrain" intolerance and the diet is the same. Most people start feeling better in just a couple weeks.
If Left Undiagnosed or Ignored, What Problems Can Occur?
Left undiagnosed or ignored, celiac disease over time can cause complications that result in chronic diseases, cancer, and death (Koenig, Ronnie, n.d.). People that suffer from celiac disease should educate themselves of the detrimental effects of “cheating” or simply ignoring their condition. There is no such thing as “taking a day off”, or “having just one bite”, eating gluten free is every meal, every day. A tiny little bit of gluten will initiate an immune cascade that will damage more microvilli increasing the damage to the intestinal tract.
The symptoms are a signal that something is going wrong. They must not be ignored and they will not go away if a gluten free diet is not followed. The damage that is occurring inside will progress until the damage cannot be repaired. Auto-immune diseases develop as IBS and Crohn’s disease which are hard to control and can seriously damage the large intestines, let alone alter one’s life.
The damage begins with the Peyer’s patches in the jejunum and ileum sending out antibodies to attack the gluten that has attached to the microvillus. This causes the microvillus to atrophy, the mucus and beneficial bacteria disappears and structural holes are exposed along the intestinal wall. This is called Leaky Gut Syndrome. Candida albican plus other bacteria and microbes, and molecules that are normally too large to penetrate the endothelial can pass into the body through the holes. These undigested food particles, fat globules, microbes, and other items must pass through the liver. The fat globules get stuck in the liver causing a fatty liver. A fatty liver increases the production of fibrinogen and cholesterol causing platelet aggregation and heart disease (LE Magazine, May 1996). Through Iridology one can see that the spleen, pancreas, and gallbladder are also affected. All the organs are affected by these molecules in the blood as all blood passes through all organs.
A correct diagnosis is a blessing in disguise. Today’s food choices are so poor, with fast foods, quick stops for beers after work, and unhealthy snacks before bed. Until one is diagnosed, an array of drugs is prescribed for the symptoms, not ever getting to the root of the problem just putting more stress on the intestines, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and the body as a whole. Invasive tests are performed that do more damage to the intestinal tract and even removing organs as the gallbladder and sections of the large intestines. Now the patient is even more worse off than before. Celiac disease is a condition that starts with “C”, but is not cancer. And the best thing of all is it is treated with just what you put in your mouth. It gives people a new insight in how foods, all by themselves, can have such a profound impact on the body. Although celiac disease exaggerates the affects, all foods good and bad, makes a difference. It is a new start to make things right and do what is right for our bodies. How blessed are we?
ESSENTIALS FOR HEALING
Now that you have been diagnosed and your kitchen has been transformed, how can you heal the damage that has occurred in the intestinal tract? Well, it really depends on the severity of the damage. It is well documented of the benefits of intestinal flora (probiotics), in which if you have celiac disease, you are probably void of. Other nutrients that are known to heal the intestinal tract are reduced L-glutathione, gamma oryzanol, and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine (Lipski, Elizabeth, pg. 240). If you can find a Naturopathic Doctor that carries Professional Complimentary Health Formula products, they may have a Small and Large Intestines homeopathic formula that works wonders.
Leaky gut syndrome results in much nutrient loss. Taking a probiotics would plug these holes to minimize nutrient loss. A quality liquid whole food multivitamin, preferably taken on an empty stomach, and a good colloidal mineral supplement that would also be readily absorbed would help replace lost vitamins and minerals.
It is very important to help all the digestive organs heal and give them a brake. Digestive enzymes would do just that; help break down the food and make the individual nutrients more available. Health food stores carry all of these products that I have mentioned and directions for use are on the bottles unless your doctor or naturopath has directed you otherwise.
It seems today EVERYONE with stomach issues is diagnosed with celiac disease! Researchers have even claimed to have found the gene responsible. True celiac is not very common; a true celiac is MISSING a gene. Everyone else that is being diagnosed with celiac, especially if they are over 25 years of age, are not true celiacs. These people are suffering from an intolerance to “frankengrains.” What the heck is that? Frankengrains are genetically modified grains that many people are intolerant to. To learn more about Frankengrains, read the book Wheat Belly, by Dr. William Davis. A true Celiac can trace this issue far back in their family tree.
Koenig, Ronnie (n.d.). Gluten consumption could be killing you. Retrieved on March 07, 2010 from,
Lipski, Elizabeth(2004). Digestive Wellness. McGraw Hill.