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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Will a Pill Soon Enable Celiac Patients to Eat Gluten?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Photo: CC--doug88888

    Celiac.com 01/16/2013 - Scientists are making progress on the creation of a pill that would allow people with celiac disease to safely eat gluten in much the same way that lactase pills allow people with lactose intolerance to eat dairy products without upsetting digestion.

    Photo: CC--doug88888As with lactase, the approach involves the use of an enzyme to break down the gluten that causes celiac symptoms.

    When people consume wheat, rye or barley, enzymes in the stomach break down gluten into smaller pieces, called peptides. For most people, these peptides are harmless. But for the 2 million-3 million Americans with celiac disease, the peptides trigger an autoimmune response and painful symptoms.

    Currently, the only way for people with celiac disease to avoid the autoimmune response and the accompanying symptoms is to avoid gluten altogether.

    However, Justin Siegel, Ingrid Swanson Pultz and colleagues think that an enzyme might be able to further break down the offending peptides in the stomach, thus permitting people with celiac disease to safely eat gluten-containing foods.

    Their efforts led to the discovery of a naturally occurring enzyme that has some of the ideal properties for doing so. They then used a computer to modify the enzyme in the laboratory so that it would do the job completely.

    The newly engineered enzyme, which they called KumaMax, breaks down more than 95 percent of gluten peptides associated with celiac disease in acidic conditions that mimic the stomach.

    Clearly, further research and trials are needed, but these early results make the new enzyme a strong candidate for oral use in the treatment of celiac disease.

    What do you think? Would you take spill that allowed your body to safely digest gluten from wheat, barley or rye without any of the symptoms or damage associated with celiac disease? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.


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    Guest Sara in Brooklyn

    Posted

    Well, I'll certainly never eat gluten again, pill or no pill. 95% still leaves 5% available to make us sicker than sick... Also - in my experience, plenty of pills have *other* ingredients that are hard to tolerate (fillers, binders, inks/dyes...). Lactase is a naturally occurring enzyme that breaks down the *sugar* lactose. Proteins are a whole 'nother story - and no one can assert, based on evidence, that the OTHER components of wheat protein are going to be tolerated.

     

    NO THANKS.

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    I take enzymes now if I'm not sure if there's gluten in my meal and it helps a lot so yes I loved the article and I hope this pill comes out soon!!! So excited!!

    Did you notice the part that says they "used a computer to modify the enzyme in the laboratory"? This is a genetically modified enzyme, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have the potential to cause all sorts of problems/imbalances in our bodies. In fact, some people argue that GMOs are to blame for the plethora of food allergies we are seeing in the US today (BT Corn might be causing a leaky gut and allowing food particles to enter the bloodstream, in-turn causing the immune system to react to these foods). I worry that long term, using a genetically modified enzyme to treat Celiac disease could actually make matters worse for people who are already dealing with serious digestive issues. Who knows in what ways this human engineered enzyme will interact with the naturally occurring enzymes and flora in our gut, not to mention the lining of our digestive system.

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    No, I wouldn't take a pill unless it not only took care of the immediate symptoms, but also the "arsenic" effect it has on my quality of life. Gluten predisposes us to CA, Scleraderma, Lupus and many other diseases. So just making it easy to consume gluten without immediate symptoms is not safe enough.

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    No doubt about it. Absolutely yes if proven safe and effective. It would reopen so many doors for travel and social events that I have to avoid because of the food contamination problem now.

     

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    I would take the pill only as a protective measure if I had to eat something I was not 100% sure was gluten-free. I would not knowingly eat gluten in any significant quantity.

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    I would definitely consider it. But I agree with another comment about the GMOs. I think I also have a problem with them as well, but this may be worth a try. Maybe not for daily use but for occasional "cheating."

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    digestive enzymes that break down the gluten peptide already exist but now PHARMA is trying to capitalize here and make people think the only way to get them is from your medical doctor!

    I have learned that taking pysillium seed powder in a glass of water before eating gluten prevent problems for me.

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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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