Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Things: Installment 39 (A Mid-Week Edition)

I recently underwent some testing to determine whether I had the gene(s) for celiac disease and/or gluten sensitivity. You may remember that my mom was diagnosed with celiac disease in June 2008, and I had some tests run after that that came back negative. In recent years, I've come to discover that there are many tests that can be run to determine whether someone is allergic (or potentially allergic) to gluten - some are more accurate than others. I opted to have the genetic typing tests run through a local lab. My recent research has again driven home the need for more patient education, and so I pass along these little nuggets of info to all of you.

Things to Know About Gluten & Gluten Allergies
  • Gluten is a protein contained in the grains wheat, barley, and rye. Its structure gives a doughy/elastic consistency to flours derived from these grains. It is not hard to see why, over the centuries, gluten-containing grains have come to be used so extensively in breads and other baked goods.
  • The nature of the toxicity is mostly due to a reaction that occurs within the immune system of individuals in possession of certain genes that recognize gluten for the foreign protein that it is.
  • Although there may be no detectable symptoms of the immune response to gluten, the typical symptoms people develop occur when the reaction begins to damage the intestines. The symptoms, resulting from malabsorption or improper digestion of dietary nutrients, include abdominal bloating or pain, diarrhea, constipation, gaseousness, or nausea with or without vomiting. It appears that acid reflux in the esophagus, manifesting as heartburn, may be a potential symptom as well. Other symptoms people experience include fatigue, joint pains, mouth ulcers, bone pain, abnormal menses in women, and infertility. It is important to note that there are many individuals who never possess clinical symptoms that lead them to the doctor.
  • Currently, tests are available to detect the genes that control the immune system's reaction to gluten. These genes are called human leukocyte antigens or HLA. There are several types of HLA genes within each person. It is a particular type called HLA-DQ that is most useful in the assessment of the probability that a person may be gluten sensitive.
  • DQ2 is present in 31% of the general American population. DQ8 (without DQ2) is present in another 12%. Thus, the main celiac genes are present in 43% of Americans. Include DQ1 (without DQ2 or DQ8), which is present in another 38%, yields the fact that at least 81% of America is genetically predisposed to gluten sensitivity. Based on these data, almost all Americans, especially those descending from Europe (including Mexico and other Latin states because of the Spanish influence), the Middle East, the Near East (including India), and Russia, are genetically predisposed to gluten sensitivity.
  • Gluten sensitivity implies that a person's immune system is intolerant of gluten in the diet and is forming antibodies or displaying some other evidence of an inflammatory reaction. When these reactions cause small intestinal damage visible on a biopsy, the syndrome has been called celiac sprue, celiac disease, or gluten sensitive enteropathy.
  • Because research has shown that as many as 30% of all Americans may be gluten sensitive, and that 1 in 225 have a severe form of this sensitivity causing the intestinal disease called celiac sprue, a case can be made that everyone in America should be screened for gluten sensitivity. However, there are people with various risk factors or diseases that are at greater risk of developing gluten sensitivity who should undoubtedly be tested. These include:
    • Microscopic colitis
    • Relatives of gluten-sensitive individuals
    • Gluten-sensitive individuals 1 year after treatment
    • Chronic diarrhea of unknown origin
    • Irritable bowel syndrome
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
    • Hepatitis C
    • Autoimmune liver disease
    • Other causes of chronic liver disease
    • Dermatitis herpetiformis
    • Diabetes mellitus, type 1
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Sjogren's syndrome
    • Lupus
    • Scleroderma
    • Autoimmune thyroid disease
    • Dermatomyositis
    • Psoriasis
    • Any autoimmune syndrome
    • Chronic Fatigue
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Asthma
    • AIDS
    • Osteoporosis
    • Iron deficiency
    • Short stature in children
    • Down's syndrome
    • Mothers of kids with neural tube defects
    • Female infertility
    • Peripheral neuropathy
    • Cerebellar ataxia
    • Seizure disorders
    • Psychiatric disorders
    • Depression
    • Alcoholism
    • Autism
    • ADHD/ADD
If you have any reason to believe that you might have sensitivity to gluten, get tested. It's simple & painless, and it just might save your life. Seriously.

    **All info relating to gluten & gluten sensitivity taken from here.

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