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    Is Celiac the World's Greatest Disease?


    Jefferson Adams

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


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    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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    Guest Robyn Bray

    Posted

    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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    Guest ACurtis

    Posted

    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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    Guest Michelle

    Posted

    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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    Guest Elizabeth

    Posted

    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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    Guest Cortnie

    Posted

    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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    Guest Deborah

    Posted

    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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    No complaints about the quality of the writing, but I, too, find the idea that celiac disease is "great" very offensive. I'm 54 and apparently have had it my entire life, but only got diagnosed a few weeks ago. Who knows what damage it has done to me? My 3 young adult children all have symptoms as well and have gone gluten-free.

     

    It is expensive to buy the gluten-free baked products. It's difficult to eat with other people or in restaurants. Having food allergies as well, I find the recipes that are gluten-free are also full of yummy herbs, spices and other foods that I cannot eat. Is that great? I'm not feeling it.

     

    And lastly, by saying that people can completely control this, the author by default lays the blame squarely on the person with celiac disease if they have continued symptoms or cannot get it under control. I'm diligent about trying to be 100% gluten-free, but last week I inadvertently used a can of broth that had gluten in it. If I'd bought the same brand, same broth in a box instead of the can, it would've been gluten-free. But not having an encyclopediac memory (hello brain fog) I bought the wrong broth. The response when I called the manufacturer was that they hadn't labeled it as gluten-free. True, but they also didn't label their gluten-free brands as gluten-free either. Nor did they add "contains gluten" to any of their products. Some contain gluten, some don't. No labeling to help us out in the stores.

     

    My genes are not my fault. If I can't get my antibodies to zero, it's not for lack of effort, commitment or education. It's just difficult and that author's implication that it's easy to do is insensitive.

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    Maskell's suggestion that Celiac is "the greatest disease in the world" is not offensive; there is much truth to what he says. At least you don't have to medicate yourself daily. It does, though, require more effort on your part to be more personally involved in your diet.

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    Guest Margaret

    Posted

    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.

    I agree, Laura. Celiac disease is not cured by a pill, thus there is no money to be made from pharmaceutical companies. My doctor actually told me when I was first diagnosed, "You are lucky that you have celiac, it's the easiest disease," and just handed me a pamphlet and said to avoid gluten. I have been following the diet religiously and I am now ready for my 5th endoscopy; I have had so many complications from this. It effects not only your body but your emotional well being.

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    While it is true that having celiac disease makes you very conscious of your diet, it is also one of the most difficult things I have ever tackled. It is isolating because it is so difficult to partiicpate even in family dinners. Being able to safely eat out is a nightmare. Even those restaurants that advertise a gluten-free menu put caveats about how they cannot be responsible for cross contamination.

     

    It is a life altering diagnosis just as any other serious illness but because "you only need to avoid gluten" it is not taken with the same degree of seriousness.

     

    Education that begins with the medical community would help.

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    I have been diagnosed with celiac disease. It has changed my life entirely. I don't think it is such a great thing to have. Look at the other things we face. It is very hard when you have a family that does not have it and you have to cook the things for them, but still you have to sit and watch them eat the things you love. I hate this disease.

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    Given all the horrible diseases one could get, I think it's a great disease. All you have to do is stop eating something. How difficult is that, really? We have to accept our illness and make the best of it with dignity and grace. I've had it for 12 years. We have it 10 times better now than we did then.

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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.

    What a great attitude!

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. He has covered Health News for Examiner.com, and provided health and medical content for Sharecare.com. His work has appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate, among others.

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    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 06/20/2018 - Currently, the only way to manage celiac disease is to eliminate gluten from the diet. That could be set to change as clinical trials begin in Australia for a new vaccine that aims to switch off the immune response to gluten. 
    The trials are set to begin at Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast Clinical Trials Centre. The vaccine is designed to allow people with celiac disease to consume gluten with no adverse effects. A successful vaccine could be the beginning of the end for the gluten-free diet as the only currently viable treatment for celiac disease. That could be a massive breakthrough for people with celiac disease.
    USC’s Clinical Trials Centre Director Lucas Litewka said trial participants would receive an injection of the vaccine twice a week for seven weeks. The trials will be conducted alongside gastroenterologist Dr. James Daveson, who called the vaccine “a very exciting potential new therapy that has been undergoing clinical trials for several years now.”
    Dr. Daveson said the investigational vaccine might potentially restore gluten tolerance to people with celiac disease.The trial is open to adults between the ages of 18 and 70 who have clinically diagnosed celiac disease, and have followed a strict gluten-free diet for at least 12 months. Anyone interested in participating can go to www.joinourtrials.com.
    Read more at the website for Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast Clinical Trials Centre.

    Source:
    FoodProcessing.com.au

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 06/19/2018 - Could baking soda help reduce the inflammation and damage caused by autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease? Scientists at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University say that a daily dose of baking soda may in fact help reduce inflammation and damage caused by autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease.
    Those scientists recently gathered some of the first evidence to show that cheap, over-the-counter antacids can prompt the spleen to promote an anti-inflammatory environment that could be helpful in combating inflammatory disease.
    A type of cell called mesothelial cells line our body cavities, like the digestive tract. They have little fingers, called microvilli, that sense the environment, and warn the organs they cover that there is an invader and an immune response is needed.
    The team’s data shows that when rats or healthy people drink a solution of baking soda, the stomach makes more acid, which causes mesothelial cells on the outside of the spleen to tell the spleen to go easy on the immune response.  "It's most likely a hamburger not a bacterial infection," is basically the message, says Dr. Paul O'Connor, renal physiologist in the MCG Department of Physiology at Augusta University and the study's corresponding author.
    That message, which is transmitted with help from a chemical messenger called acetylcholine, seems to encourage the gut to shift against inflammation, say the scientists.
    In patients who drank water with baking soda for two weeks, immune cells called macrophages, shifted from primarily those that promote inflammation, called M1, to those that reduce it, called M2. "The shift from inflammatory to an anti-inflammatory profile is happening everywhere," O'Connor says. "We saw it in the kidneys, we saw it in the spleen, now we see it in the peripheral blood."
    O'Connor hopes drinking baking soda can one day produce similar results for people with autoimmune disease. "You are not really turning anything off or on, you are just pushing it toward one side by giving an anti-inflammatory stimulus," he says, in this case, away from harmful inflammation. "It's potentially a really safe way to treat inflammatory disease."
    The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
    Read more at: Sciencedaily.com

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 06/18/2018 - Celiac disease has been mainly associated with Caucasian populations in Northern Europe, and their descendants in other countries, but new scientific evidence is beginning to challenge that view. Still, the exact global prevalence of celiac disease remains unknown.  To get better data on that issue, a team of researchers recently conducted a comprehensive review and meta-analysis to get a reasonably accurate estimate the global prevalence of celiac disease. 
    The research team included P Singh, A Arora, TA Strand, DA Leffler, C Catassi, PH Green, CP Kelly, V Ahuja, and GK Makharia. They are variously affiliated with the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts; Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, India; Innlandet Hospital Trust, Lillehammer, Norway; Centre for International Health, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway; Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts; Gastroenterology Research and Development, Takeda Pharmaceuticals Inc, Cambridge, MA; Department of Pediatrics, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy; Department of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York; USA Celiac Disease Center, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York; and the Department of Gastroenterology and Human Nutrition, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India.
    For their review, the team searched Medline, PubMed, and EMBASE for the keywords ‘celiac disease,’ ‘celiac,’ ‘tissue transglutaminase antibody,’ ‘anti-endomysium antibody,’ ‘endomysial antibody,’ and ‘prevalence’ for studies published from January 1991 through March 2016. 
    The team cross-referenced each article with the words ‘Asia,’ ‘Europe,’ ‘Africa,’ ‘South America,’ ‘North America,’ and ‘Australia.’ They defined celiac diagnosis based on European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition guidelines. The team used 96 articles of 3,843 articles in their final analysis.
    Overall global prevalence of celiac disease was 1.4% in 275,818 individuals, based on positive blood tests for anti-tissue transglutaminase and/or anti-endomysial antibodies. The pooled global prevalence of biopsy-confirmed celiac disease was 0.7% in 138,792 individuals. That means that numerous people with celiac disease potentially remain undiagnosed.
    Rates of celiac disease were 0.4% in South America, 0.5% in Africa and North America, 0.6% in Asia, and 0.8% in Europe and Oceania; the prevalence was 0.6% in female vs 0.4% males. Celiac disease was significantly more common in children than adults.
    This systematic review and meta-analysis showed celiac disease to be reported worldwide. Blood test data shows celiac disease rate of 1.4%, while biopsy data shows 0.7%. The prevalence of celiac disease varies with sex, age, and location. 
    This review demonstrates a need for more comprehensive population-based studies of celiac disease in numerous countries.  The 1.4% rate indicates that there are 91.2 million people worldwide with celiac disease, and 3.9 million are in the U.S.A.
    Source:
    Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Jun;16(6):823-836.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2017.06.037.