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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Is Celiac the World's Greatest Disease?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 01/07/2013 - In a recent article for Mindbodygreen.com, James Maskell, calls celiac the "world's greatest disease."

    Why does he say this? Mainly because celiac disease cannot be cured or treated with pills or other standard methods. Because avoiding wheat, rye and barley is the only way to heal celiac-related damage to the gut, celiac disease helps drive home the importance of diet and nutrition in treating and preventing numerous other diseases.

    Photo: CC-- Leo ReynoldsThink about it. Numerous diseases, even those like heart disease or diabetes, which often have strong associations with poor diet, lack of exercise, etc., are treated, if not cured, with medical procedures and pharmaceutical drugs.

    It is a rare medical reality for a treatable disease to resist drugs and external cures, and for the only effective treatment to be a permanent dietary change.

    In every case of celiac disease, the treatment and cure come solely from the patient taking responsibility to avoid gluten, and to eat food that promotes gut health. This reality alerts people to the fact that certain diseases can be ameliorated or even cured by lifestyle and diet changes.

    That is why Maskell calls celiac disease the greatest disease in the world.

    Forgetting for a moment the more extreme cases, and the benefits of some conventional treatments, think of how different treatments for other diseases might be if a change of diet was the only option.

    Imagine if dietary change was the only viable option for diet-related heart disease. How many people might nip it in its infancy and reverse or control their heart disease before it ever became severe enough to require drugs or surgery?

    Think how different the food landscape in America would be if doctors told patients with diet-related heart disease and diet-related pre-diabetes that a change of diet was the only option.

    When doctors have to tell patients that the only solution to their disease is a dietary shift, the doors open for "awareness of integrative or functional approaches to health."

    Given that many of the growing health epidemics (obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc.) in America have strong dietary components, will celiac disease promote a greater awareness and stronger reliance on the role of diet in treating disease? We can only watch and hope. And, according to Maskell, if we are one of the several million Americans with celiac disease, we can count our blessings.

    Do you have celiac disease? Do you agree with John Maskell's view? What has celiac disease taught you about the relationship between diet and good health?

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    Thank you for letting the celiac community know about Maskell's article. What an offensive idea. Those of us with celiac disease don't find it "great." The disease destroys our bodies and often our minds. Doctors tout a gluten-free diet as a cure, but many of us have continuing symptoms because we have developed intolerances to additional foods, because food manufacturers and restaurants don't clearly label food that contains gluten, and because cross contamination is almost impossible to avoid. Also, it can be difficult to get all of the nutrients you need on a gluten free diet.

     

    Yes, the medical profession and society in general need more education about nutrition. But Mr. Maskell, please don't trivialize celiac disease by praising it as a wonderful way to educate people about nutrition. It's a serious, life-altering disease.

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    I completely agree! Knowing I have celiac disease has changed my life! I view food as my fuel for energy, my healing agent for inflammation and pain, and my escape route from drugs and an inept medical system. It gives me power! I have always tried to do what was right for myself and lots of what I had been told was wrong! It's a battle in a culture that is designed to destroy us, but knowledge is power and I thank God every day for this knowledge. The Bible says "My people perish for lack of knowledge," and our current health status in the US proves that.

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    Thank you for letting the celiac community know about Maskell's article. What an offensive idea. Those of us with celiac disease don't find it "great." The disease destroys our bodies and often our minds. Doctors tout a gluten-free diet as a cure, but many of us have continuing symptoms because we have developed intolerances to additional foods, because food manufacturers and restaurants don't clearly label food that contains gluten, and because cross contamination is almost impossible to avoid. Also, it can be difficult to get all of the nutrients you need on a gluten free diet.

     

    Yes, the medical profession and society in general need more education about nutrition. But Mr. Maskell, please don't trivialize celiac disease by praising it as a wonderful way to educate people about nutrition. It's a serious, life-altering disease.

    Couldn't have said it any better, I agree completely with your response!

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    I have Celiac and I'm allergic to corn, sulfites and more. Many gluten-free foods contain those allergens, and are often not labeled. Food allergies are also controlled by diets that avoid those allergens. Much like celiacs who have to avoid gluten containing foods. Doctors tend to ignore food related illnesses, in favor of treating people with costly drugs or surgery. There is no money in telling people to avoid gluten or food allergens. Most doctors wont even look for them, so people suffer for years, without knowing what is really wrong with them. The medical establishment is not going to change, just because the spotlight is being shown on celiac. And people will still not be properly treated with diet, instead of useless drugs.

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    In my opinion, anyone (including myself) with celiac disease should feel blessed that we can control our own destiny through elimination and control of what we ingest. Often people will say to me, "I feel sorry for you". My reply is, "It could be a lot worse," and that is the truth. I could be like one of my friends who has terrible MS or another who has cancer. They cannot get better, and feel better, by denying themselves food that they probably didn't need anyway. I was diagnosed in 2004 and have never intentionally ingested gluten since then. In retrospect, to call celiac disease "great," isn't so far off considering the alternatives. Just remember, food is eat to live, not live to eat.

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    Awakening people and getting them to see the truth sometimes means using one disease in order to open the eyes of many.

     

    If celiac disease, whose only "cure" is to forego gluten/eat a healthier diet, is the catalyst that will get people to realize that nutrition/food is one of the main causes for our current issue with these numerous chronic diseases we currently face, then perhaps that is the way we need to move forward.

     

    Get people to realize that a bad diet, nutrient deficient food, manmade/factory made food, processed/fast foods, pesticide/chemicals/dyes/artificial flavorings/artificial sugars, MSG/Aspartame ALL CONTRIBUTE to poor health and their chronic disease.

     

    Once a mind is opened up and people start seriously seeing, looking at, questioning, contemplating, and researching where their food comes from and why/how poor food choices affect the body/give a person this particular dis-ease--then and only then will we see a huge groundswelling, outpouring of protest and people who will demand that our food system is fixed.

     

    I am all for using any means necessary to get the uninformed, sleeping sheeple to wake up and realize exactly what denatured and denutritioned foods do to the body; they make them sick.

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    There is no disease that is "great" and celiac is definitely not great in any way!!!!!! I agree, Laura, that is offensive. Celiac has actually turned my life from great to terrible!

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    I found this article very interesting. What an unusual, and yet so obvious way to look at celiac disease. Mr. Maskell makes a good point. Doctors are far too quick to diagnose and push pills. If doctors and patients alike spent more time trying to heal their bodies and solve the problems, instead of just masking them, imagine the change we could make to our health as a society. When I found out I had celiac disease, after eight and a half months of living off gravel and pepto bismol, I was thrilled! To be able to fix my body and finally feel good again, just by changing what I eat... It truly is a blessing to know I have the power to change my life.

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    Some of you are right our disease is not great however, we can completly control it on our own. No 6 month blood draws or treatments or medications. If looking at us helps others be more aware of what they are eating good for them. I feel blessed to have such a problem I can manage on my own.

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    While Dr. Maskell makes an interesting point, I sure don't think of my illness as great. I was misdiagnosed throughout my life, tested for everything imaginable, given pills that did nothing to cure me (but probably created other problems) and I was treated by many doctors as if my symptoms were all in my head. My life changed when one astute physician determined that the problem was gluten. I am still bitterly angry that food companies continue to use wheat as a filler and that our wheat crops have been genetically modified to contain more gluten than is natural. I'd love to see food companies take greater responsibility for the health of their customers by eliminating unnecessary gluten, and I'd like to see pharmaceutical companies and doctors stop pushing pills on us before figuring out what the real problems are.

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    While I understand Mr. Maskell's premise that this is a unique disease because it is the only one with a purely dietary solution, calling it the world's GREATEST disease is a travesty to those of us who suffer from its debilitating effects. I wasn't diagnosed until I was in my 50's, although shortly after my birth until I was 4 or 5 I was classified as a "failure to thrive." I also had two miscarriages, and both my surviving children were premature. It was only after I developed severe neurological symptoms that mimicked MS that I turned to an alternative doctor and was correctly diagnosed. Unfortunately my diagnoses came too late to help my mother who died two years ago of colon cancer and complications from a stroke. I'm sure if she'd been correctly tested when she was younger many of her health problems could have been averted.

     

    The most frustrating thing about celiac disease is the misnomer of a gluten free diet (most people have no idea what is in their food) and the social isolation it causes. Eating in a restaurant is a crap shoot, and having to turn down food from friends and family due to cross contamination is never well received, even by the most caring and understanding individuals. Those who don't care about you think you're just a whiner. Still, I'm glad I have regained a large part of my health and will have a chance at a few more years with my family. But please let Mr. Maskell know, if a pill IS ever invented that can counter the impact of gluten on my life, I'll be first in line to use it.

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    I'm sure he would feel differently if he had celiac disease. I don't find it great at all. Yes it is a good thing to be able to help yourself by being forced to eat better, but that doesn't make it all better. I got pretty depressed when I was diagnosed. I still get sad at times. It is a complete life altering situation.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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