Since May is Celiac Awareness Month, I’d like to focus on gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. In particular, let’s examine one of the primary, oft-quoted studies on the topic, which I think is misleading. I’m talking about the study by Fasano, in which he found that about 1:100 people checked with a particular blood test (a tissue transglutaminse antibody) had a positive reaction, and were therefore described as having celiac disease. Previous studies had noted that a very high percentage of people with notable damage on intestinal biopsy looking for celiac disease were also positive for this enzyme antibody test. The problem, I believe, is that testing one antibody to a particular enzyme is a definitive test. The assumption is that everyone who tests negative to that single antibody is not gluten sensitive or in this case has celiac disease.
Cyrex Labs agrees with me; they test 24 different gluten related antibodies, including 4 different transglutaminase antibodies. We don’t yet have hard numbers about the percentage of people who react to one or more of these antibodies, but our own clinical experience indicates that gluten is a force to be reckoned with. We don’t test a true cross section of people, but work with people trying to solve a particular health problem such as Hashimoto’s, IBS, chronic anemia, general fatigue and other similar issues. In this population, I think we have had one person test negative for these antibodies. This leads us to conclude that gluten sensitivity, whether celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, is a factor in a high percentage of cases of chronic illnesses, especially autoimmune problems.
Many, many people choose to ignore this type of information. From conversations with these folks, I think it comes down to a couple of factors. One is that a portion of the gliadin molecule of the gluten protein complex is a stimulator of the opiate receptors in the brain causing a certain level of addiction. Addicts don’t appreciate hearing that one of their favorite chemicals is causing them problems.
Also it takes effort to follow a strict gluten free diet. You have to be careful about which isles you shop at the grocery store, which restaurants you choose for your lunch and at the restaurant you will have to ask about the gluten status of the items.
If you are dealing with a chronic problem, some testing will be in order. We can send test kits to California and Nevada. Those of you in other states will have to hunt around for a doc who can run a Cyrex Labs Array 3. If you are testing a child, you might want to look at the antigliadin antibody tests by Enterolab.
If you are gluten sensitive, you probably also have methylation problems. Some supplements that we recommend to help with that are: EuroMedica Clinical Glutathione, Metabolic Maintenance SAM-e and Metagenics FolaPro.