This week my friend Brett and I are talking about Celiac Disease and Gluten issues in the American Diet. A recent Washington Post article claims that the incidence of Celiac Disease has increased four fold in the last twenty years. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder of the intestines. It is actually a mistake in the system, where part of the body responsible for protecting us from infection begins to view the cell walls of the intestines as an invader bacteria and attacks it.
When this happens, the individual becomes very uncomfortable, there are abdominal pains, gas, bloating, and mal-absorption problems that lead to malnutrition. It is a serious autoimmune problem. We don’t exactly know what causes it, but we have identified a genetic marker that indicates potential risks. For those of European descent, 30% are at risk because they possess this marker. Of that 30%, 95% will never have the disease. Only 5% are at risk, so the question becomes, what triggers this disorder into being in the at risk population?
We do not know for sure, but several markers have been identified in the discussion: microbes (both good and bad bacteria), the environment, the history of breast feeding, and the diet of the individual. The human system needs bacteria of both types, “good” such as probiotics, and “bad” such as E coli. Our system is supposed to be constructed to keep them in balance so that they each do their job. Sometimes, when an individual takes antibiotics for a legitimate healthful reason, the system finds that its “good” bacteria are destroyed by the antibiotic. Then the “bad” bacteria runs rampant and it is very destructive. That is why some doctors, including myself, recommend probiotics after a course of antibiotics. We want to prevent this topsy turvey imbalance of the digestive system.
Breast feeding is also an interesting element in the discussion, two to three weeks of breastfeeding at the beginning of a childs life can provide it with the mothers immunities for three or four months. This protects the child while its own immune system becomes to come on line and produce its own protection.
If you or someone you love has Celiac disease, you already know how much it complicates your life. We hope you will find this podcast to be useful and thought provoking. As always, thank you for listening.