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  1. This article originally appeared in the Winter 2004 edition of Celiac.com's Scott-Free Newsletter. Transcript of a talk given by Kenneth Fine, M.D. to the Greater Louisville Celiac Sprue Support Group––transcribed by Marge Johannemann; Edited by Kelly Vogt. Celiac.com 03/04/2004 - Gluten sensitivity is the process by which the immune system reacts to gluten contained in wheat, barley, rye, and oats. The reaction begins in the intestine because that is where the inciting antigen, gluten, is present (from food). When this immunologic reaction damages the finger-like surface projections, the villi, in the small intestine (a process called villous atrophy), it is called celiac disease (or sometimes celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy). The clinical focus of gluten-induced disease has always been on the intestine because that is the only way the syndrome was recognized before screening tests were developed. The intestinal syndrome consists mainly of diarrhea, gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting, fat in the stool, nutrient malabsorption, and even constipation. Although the small intestine is always the portal of the immune response to dietary gluten, it is not always affected in a way that results in villous atrophy. Even though recent research has shown that celiac disease is much more common than previously suspected, affecting 1 in 100-200 Americans and Europeans, past and emerging evidence indicates that it accounts for only a small portion of the broader gluten sensitive clinical spectrum (often referred to as the “Tip of the Gluten Sensitive Iceberg”). With better understanding of how gluten triggers immune and autoimmune reactions in the body under the control of various genes, and advancing techniques of detecting these reactions, it is becoming apparent that the majority of the gluten sensitive population (the submerged “mass of the iceberg”) do not manifest villous atrophy in its classic, complete form and therefore do not have celiac disease. In these non-celiac, gluten sensitive individuals, the brunt of the immune reaction either affects the function of the intestine, causing symptoms without structural damage, affects other tissues of the body (and virtually all tissues have been affected in different individuals), or both. This is important because the commonly used diagnostic tests of clinically important gluten sensitivity (blood tests for certain antibodies and intestinal biopsies) are only positive when villous atrophy of the small intestine is present. But if only a small minority of gluten sensitive individuals actually develop celiac disease, the majority, who have not yet or may never develop villous atrophy, with or without symptoms, can remain undiagnosed and untreated for years. This can result in significant immune and nutritional consequences, many of which are irreversible even after treatment with a gluten-free diet. Some of these disorders include loss of hormone secretion by glands (hypothyroidism, diabetes, pancreatic insufficiency, etc), osteoporosis, short stature, cognitive impairment, and other inflammatory bowel, liver, and skin diseases, among others. Only with early diagnosis, can these problems be prevented or reversed. I am here to report on a scientific paradigm shift regarding early diagnosis of gluten sensitivity based on about 30 years of medical research by myself and others. My message is that earlier and more inclusive diagnosis of gluten sensitivity than has been allowed by blood tests and intestinal biopsies must be developed to prevent the nutritional and immune consequences of long-standing gluten sensitivity. Imagine going to a cardiologist because your blood pressure is high or you're having chest pain, and the doctor says he is going to do a biopsy of your heart to see what is wrong. If it ‘looks' O.K., you are told you have no problem and no treatment is prescribed because you have not yet had a heart attack showing on the biopsy. You would not think very highly of the doctor utilizing this approach because, after all, isn't it damage to the heart that you would want to prevent? But for the intestine and gluten sensitivity, current practice embraces this fallacious idea that until an intestinal biopsy shows structural damage, no diagnosis or therapeutic intervention is offered. This has to change now because with newly developed diagnostic tests, we can diagnose the problem before the end stage tissue damage has occurred, that is “before the villi are gone,” with the idea of preventing all the nutritional and immune consequences that go with it. There are many misconceptions regarding the clinical presentation of gluten sensitivity or celiac disease: For example, that you cannot be gluten sensitive if you have not lost weight, are obese, have no intestinal symptoms, or are an adult or elderly. However, the most widely held and clinically troublesome misconception is that a negative screening blood test, or one only showing antigliadin antibodies (without the autoimmune antiendomysial or anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody) rules out any problem caused by gluten at that time or permanently. For some reason, the high “specificity” of these blood tests has been tightly embraced. Specificity means if the test is positive, you surely have the disease being tested for with little chance that the positive is a “false positive.” But sadly, a negative test does not mean you do not have the problem. This is the biggest pitfall of all because the only thing a very specific test, like blood testing for celiac disease, can do is “rule in” the disease; it can not “rule it out.” If you've got very far advanced and/or long-standing celiac disease, it is likely that the test will be positive. However, several studies have now revealed that it is only those with significant villous atrophy of the small intestine who regularly show a positive antiendomysial or anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody, the specific tests relied upon most heavily for diagnosis of gluten-induced disease. When there was only partial villous atrophy, only 30% had a positive test. More disturbing perhaps, were the results with respect to screening first degree relatives of celiacs with blood tests. Despite some biopsy-proven early inflammatory changes in the small intestine but without villi damage, all blood tests were negative. For some reason, it's been perfectly acceptable to celiac diagnosticians that a patient must have far advanced intestinal gluten sensitivity, i.e., villous atrophy, to be diagnosed and a candidate for treatment with a gluten-free diet. That means from the specific testing standpoint, there's never (or rarely) a false positive. But what about the larger majority of gluten-affected people who do not presently have or may never get this end stage, villous atrophic presentation? They are out of luck as far as blood testing is concerned. So the fact is that we have erroneously relied on specificity (always picks up gluten sensitivity after it has caused villous atrophy, never having a false positive) instead of sensitivity (doesn't miss gluten sensitive people even though they might be picked up early, even before full-blown celiac disease develops). Would a test relying on specificity rather than sensitivity be good enough for you, or your children? Consider the risk of not getting an early diagnosis versus going on a gluten free diet a few months or years prematurely. While I do not recommend anyone to have a biopsy (especially children) for diagnosis because of the shortcomings and invasive nature of this technique, I particularly do not want someone to have a biopsy showing villous atrophy, since by that time, associated bone, brain, growth, and/or gland problems are all but guaranteed. And here is another related problem: You have a positive blood test, but, if a small bowel biopsy comes back normal or nearly normal, you are told that the blood test must have been a “false positive” and that gluten is not your problem. Would you believe that, especially in light of the fact that most such people would have gotten the blood test in the first place because of a specific symptom or problem? Let's hope not. All that means (positive blood test, negative biopsy) is that the gluten sensitivity (evidenced by antibodies to gliadin in the blood) has not yet damaged your intestines severely. Evidence of this comes from a study that I performed. We tested 227 normal volunteers with blood tests for celiac disease. Twenty-five of these people (11%) had either antigliadin IgG or IgA in their blood versus only one (0.4%) that had antiendomysial, anti-tissue transglutaminase, and antigliadin IgA in the blood. So for every one person in a population that has the antibodies that have 100% specificity for celiac disease of the intestine (antiendomysial and anti-tissue transglutaminase), there are 24 that have antibodies to gliadin that may not have celiac disease. So what is going on with the 11% with antigliadin antibodies in blood? Are these false positives (rhetorically)? You're telling me that there is a disease called celiac disease and it is associated with antibodies to gliadin in the blood and sometimes it damages the intestine? But people with antigliadin antibody in their blood but no other antibodies do not have a clinically significant immunologic reaction to gluten? Do you see the problem? How can 11% be false positives? What about the 89% with none of these antibodies? You cannot equate having no antibodies at all (a negative test) with having antigliadin antibodies alone. If you have antibodies to gliadin, something is going on here. Where there's smoke there's fire. The purpose of this study was to test this hypothesis: That an antigliadin antibody alone does indicate the presence of an immune reaction to gluten that may be clinically important. Using tests for intestinal malabsorption and abnormal permeability (i.e., tests of small bowel function, unlike a biopsy which says nothing about function), we found that 45% of people with only an antigliadin IgG or IgA antibody in blood (without either antiendomysial or anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody) already had measurable intestinal dysfunction, compared to only 5% of people with no antibodies to gliadin in their blood. When we did biopsies of these people's intestines, none had villous atrophy with only a few showing some early inflammation. Thus, having an antigliadin antibody in your blood does mean something: That there is nearly a 1 in 2 chance that functional intestinal damage is already present even though it may not be visible structurally at the resolution attained by a light microscope assessment of a biopsy. As mentioned at the outset, not all gluten sensitive individuals develop villous atrophy. Evidence for this has been around for a long time. In 1980, a medical publication titled “Gluten-Sensitive Diarrhea” reported that eight people with chronic diarrhea, sometimes for as long as 20 years, that resolved completely when treated with a gluten-free diet, had mild small bowel inflammation but no villous atrophy. In 1996 in a paper called “Gluten Sensitivity with Mild Enteropathy,” ten patients, who were thought to have celiac disease because of a positive antiendomysial antibody blood test, had small bowel biopsies showing no villous atrophy. But amazingly, these biopsies were shown to react to gluten when put in a Petri dish, proving the tissue immunologically reacted to gluten (which was likely anyway from their positive blood tests). Two other reports from Europe published in 2001 showed gluten sensitivity without villous atrophy (and hence without celiac disease). In one of these studies, 30% of patients with abdominal symptoms suggestive of irritable bowel syndrome having the celiac-like HLA-DQ2 gene but no antibodies to gliadin in their blood, had these antibodies detected in intestinal fluid (obtained by placing a tube down into the small intestine). Thus, in these people with intestinal symptoms, but normal blood tests and biopsies, the antigliadin antibodies were only inside the intestine (where they belong if you consider that the immune stimulating gluten also is inside the intestine), not in the blood. This is the theme we have followed in my research, as we are about to see. More proof that patients in these studies were gluten sensitive came from the fact that they all got better on a gluten-free diet, and developed recurrent symptoms when “challenged” with gluten. Although the gluten-sensitive patients in these studies did not have the villous atrophy that would yield a diagnosis of celiac disease, small bowel biopsies in many of them showed some, albeit minimal, inflammatory abnormalities. Yet, when a symptomatic patient in clinical practice is biopsied and found to have only minimal abnormalities on small bowel biopsy, clinicians do not put any stock in the possibility of their having gluten sensitivity. As much as I would like to take credit for the concept, you can see from these studies that I did not invent the idea that not all gluten sensitive patients have villous atrophy. It has been around for at least 23 years, and reported from different parts of the world. For many years there has also been proof that the intestine is not the only tissue targeted by the immune reaction to gluten. The prime example of this a disease called dermatitis herpetiformis where the gluten sensitivity manifests primarily in skin, with only mild or no intestinal involvement. Now from more recent research it seems that the almost endless number of autoimmune diseases of various tissues of the body also may have the immune response to dietary gluten and its consequent autoimmune reaction to tissue transglutaminase as the main immunologic cause. A study from Italy showed that the longer gluten sensitive people eat gluten, the more likely they are to develop autoimmune diseases. They found that in childhood celiacs, the prevalence of autoimmune disease rose from a baseline of 5% at age two to almost 35% by age 20. This is a big deal if you think of how much more complicated one's life is when one is both gluten sensitive AND has an additional autoimmune disease. So preventing autoimmune disease is one very important reason why early diagnosis and treatment of gluten sensitivity is important. Early diagnosis before celiac disease develops also holds the potential of preventing other clinical problems such as malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility, neurologic and psychiatric disorders, neurotube defects (like spina bifida) in your children, and various forms of gastrointestinal cancer. Another reason for early diagnosis and treatment is very straightforward and that is because many gluten sensitive individuals, even if they have not yet developed celiac disease (villous atrophy), have symptoms that abate when gluten is removed from their diet. Furthermore, from a study done in Finland, a gluten sensitive individual who reports no symptoms at the time of diagnosis can improve both psychological and physical well-being after treatment for one year with a gluten-free diet. Despite the common sense and research evidence that early diagnosis of gluten sensitivity offers many health advantages over a diagnostic scheme that can only detect the minority and end-stage patients, until now, the limitation was still in the tests being employed. As mentioned above, the main tests used for primary (before symptoms develop) and secondary (after symptoms develop) screening for celiac disease, blood tests for antigliadin and antiendomysial/anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies, are only routinely positive after extensive damage to intestinal villi. As shown in a 1990 publication, this is because unless you have full blown, untreated celiac disease, the IgA antibodies to gliadin are only INSIDE the intestine not in the blood. Measuring antigliadin antibody in blood and intestinal fluid (obtained by the laborious technique of having research subjects swallow a long tube that migrates into the upper small intestine), researchers found that in untreated celiacs, antigliadin antibody was present in the blood and inside the intestine, whereas after villous atrophy healed following a year on a gluten-free diet, the antigliadin antibody was no longer in the blood but was still measurable inside the intestine in those with ongoing mild inflammation. An important conclusion can be drawn from these results, as these researchers and myself have done: Gluten sensitive individuals who do not have villous atrophy (the mass of the iceberg), will only have evidence of their immunologic reaction to gluten by a test that assesses for antigliadin IgA antibodies where that foodstuff is located, inside the intestinal tract, not the blood. This makes sense anyway, because the immune system of the intestine, when fighting an antigen or infection inside the intestine, wages the fight right in that location in an attempt to neutralize the invading antigen, thereby preventing its penetration into the body. It does this with T cells on the surface of the epithelium, the intraepithelial lymphocytes, and with secretory IgA made with a special component called secretory piece that allows its secretion into the intestine. The excellent English researchers that made the discovery that they could detect the immunologic reaction to gluten inside the intestine before it was evident on blood tests or biopsies knew it was a breakthrough, testing it many times over in different ways, and further extending the clinical spectrum of gluten-induced disease to include a phase before the villi are damaged, so-called “latent celiac sprue”. Furthermore, they developed this technique of assessing the intestinal contents for antigliadin antibodies into what they viewed as a “noninvasive screening test for early or latent celiac sprue” (what others and I would simply call “gluten sensitivity”). However, this was not exactly noninvasive, nor was it simple. It still required the patient to swallow a tube, followed by a complete lavage of all their gastrointestinal contents with many gallons of nonabsorbable fluid that had to be passed by rectum and collected into a large vat to be analyzed for the presence of antigliadin antibodies. While this was indeed a conceptual breakthrough, it practically went unnoticed by the medical community because the cumbersome procedure of washing out the intestine just could not be done in a normal clinical setting. To this day, I am not sure how many people even know that it was not me, but rather this well known celiac research group, led by the late Dr. Anne Ferguson, who pioneered the assessment of the intestinal contents as a viable and more sensitive source of testing material for the early reactions of the immune system to gluten. What we did in my research was to refine and simplify the method of collecting and measuring these intestinal IgA antigliadin antibodies before they can be detected in blood. That is, instead of washing out the antibodies from the intestine, we allow them to be excreted naturally in the stool (feces). And so with that idea, and our ability to measure these antibodies in stool, as others before us had done for fecal IgE antibodies directed to food antigens, our new gluten (and other food) sensitivity stool testing method was born. It was actually my research of microscopic colitis that led me to discover that stool analysis was the best way of assessing for gluten sensitivity before celiac disease develops. Microscopic colitis is a very common chronic diarrheal syndrome, accounting for 10% of all causes of chronic diarrhea in all patients, and is the most common cause of ongoing chronic diarrhea in a treated celiac, affecting 4% of all celiac patients. However, from my published research, despite the presence of the celiac HLA-DQ2 gene in 64% of patients with microscopic colitis, very few get positive blood tests or biopsies consistent with celiac disease. Yet, small bowel biopsies revealed some degree of inflammation sometimes with mild villous blunting in 70% of cases. According to the facts and previously discussed shortcomings of celiac blood tests, antibodies to gliadin are unlikely to be detected in the blood in these patients because they lack villous atrophy. So negative blood tests for antigliadin antibodies per se did not, in my mind, rule out the possibility that these patients with microscopic colitis, a disease that under the microscope looks like celiac disease (but of the colon), and that affects many celiac patients, were not gluten sensitive themselves. But as Dr. Ferguson's research revealed, these antibodies might be detectable inside the intestine. And since we surely were not going to perform that cumbersome intestinal lavage test in my patients, we decided to see if we could find these antibodies in the stool as a reflection of what is coming through the intestine. Here's the first set of data that we found showing the superior sensitivity of stool testing versus blood tests for antigliadin IgA antibodies. In untreated celiac disease patients, we found a 100% positivity in the stool versus only 76% in blood. In hundreds of microscopic colitis patients since tested, only 9% have antigliadin antibody in blood but 76% have it in stool. And the same is true of 79% of family members of patients with celiac disease; 77% of patients with any autoimmune disease; 57% of people with irritable bowel syndrome-like abdominal symptoms; and 50% of people with chronic diarrhea of unknown origin, all of whom have only about a 10-12% positivity rate for blood tests (like normal volunteers). Thus, when you go to the source of production of these antibodies for testing, the intestine, the percentage of any population at a higher than normal genetic and/or clinical risk of gluten sensitivity showing a positive antigliadin stool test is 5 to 7.5 times higher than would be detected using blood tests. In normal people without specific symptoms or syndromes, the stool test is just under 3 times more likely to be positive than blood (29% vs. 11%, respectively). That's a lot more people reacting to gluten than 1 in 150 who have celiac disease. 29% of the normal population of this country, almost all of whom eat gluten, showing an intestinal immunologic reaction to the most immune-stimulating of dietary proteins really is not so high or far fetched a percentage, especially in light of the fact that 11% of them display this reaction in blood, and 42% carry the HLA-DQ2 or DQ8 celiac genes. Why is this so important? Because some people with microscopic colitis never get better when they're treated, and most autoimmune syndromes only progress with time, requiring harsh and sometimes dangerous immunosuppressive drugs just for disease control. If the immune reaction to gluten is in any way at the cause of these diseases as research suggests, and if we had at our disposal a sensitive test that can diagnose this gluten sensitivity without having to wait for the intestinal villi to be damaged, then treatment with a gluten free diet might allow the affected tissues to return to normal or at least prevent progression. We now have that test in fecal antigliadin antibody. Just a few weeks ago we completed the first follow-up phase of our study: What happens when a gluten sensitive person without villous atrophy goes on a gluten-free diet for one or two years. While I am still gathering and analyzing the data, most of the subjects reported a much improved clinical status (utilizing an objective measure of symptoms and well being). Not everybody gets well, because sadly not everyone stays on a gluten-free diet (as they sometimes admit on the surveys). Some people have the misconception that if they don't have celiac disease, but “I just have gluten sensitivity” then maybe they do not have to be strict with their gluten elimination diet. I do not think that is the case. Although a gluten free diet is like anything: Less gluten is not as damaging as more gluten, but certainly no gluten is optimal if a gluten sensitive person desires optimal health. Of the first 25 people with refractory or relapsing microscopic colitis treated with a gluten-free diet, 19 resolved diarrhea completely, and another five were notably improved. Thus, a gluten-free diet helped these patients with a chronic immune disease of a tissue other than small bowel (in this case the colon), who have been shown to be gluten sensitive by a positive stool test in my lab. The same may be true of patients with chronic autoimmune diseases of any other tissue, but who do not have full-blown celiac disease. Gluten-free dietary treatment, sometimes combined with dairy-free diet as well, has been shown to help diabetes, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, autism, and others. Thus, my approach (and I believe the most sensitive and most complete approach) for screening for early diagnosis and preventive diagnosis for clinically important gluten sensitivity is a stool test for antigliadin and anti-tissue transglutaminase IgA antibodies (IgG is not detectable in the intestine) and a malabsorption test. The malabsorption test we developed is special, because you no longer have to collect your stool for three days; we can find the same information with just one stool specimen. Stool testing in combination with HLA gene testing, which we do with a cotton-tipped swab rubbed inside the mouth, is the best diagnostic approach available for gluten sensitivity. Who should be screened for gluten sensitivity? Certainly family members of celiacs or gluten sensitive people being at the highest genetic risk. For the most part, all of the following patient groups have been shown to be at higher risk than normal for gluten sensitivity: Chronic diarrhea; microscopic colitis; dermatitis herpetiformis; diabetes mellitus; any autoimmune syndrome (of which there is an almost end-less number like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, dermatomyositis, psoriasis, thyroiditis, alopecia areata, hepatitis, etc.); Hepatitis C; asthma; chronic liver disease; osteoporosis; iron deficiency anemia; short stature in children; Down's syndrome; female infertility; peripheral neuropathy, seizures, and other neurologic syndromes; depression and other psychiatric syndromes; irritable bowel syndrome; Crohn's Disease; and people with severe gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). Autism and possibly the attention deficit disorders are emerging as syndromes that may improve with a gluten- free (and additionally casein-free) diet. A diagnosed celiac might be interested in our testing to know (after some treatment period no shorter than a year) that there is no on-going damage from malabsorption, for which we have a test. If a celiac is having ongoing symptoms or other problems, a follow-up test should be done just to be sure there's no hidden gluten in the diet, or something else that could be present, like pancreatic enzyme deficiency which often accompanies celiac disease, especially in its early stages of treatment. Historically, with respect to diagnostic methods for celiac disease, from 100 A.D., when celiac disease was first described as an emaciating, incapacitating, intestinal symptom-causing syndrome, to 1950, we had just one diagnostic test: Clinical observation for development of the end stage of the disease. Then in 1940 to 1960, when the discovery of gluten as the cause of celiac disease occurred, the best diagnostic test was removing gluten from the diet and watching for clinical improvement. It was during this period that the 72-hour fecal fat and D-xylose absorption tests were developed as measures of gluten-induced intestinal dysfunction/damage. In the mid- to late1950's, various intestinal biopsy methods were pioneered and utilized, showing total villous atrophy as the diagnostic hallmark of celiac disease. You've heard the intestinal biopsy called the “gold standard”; well as you can see, it is a 50 year-old test, and thus, the “old” standard. It was not until the 1970's and 80's (and improved upon in the 1990's) that blood tests for antigliadin and antiendomysial/anti-tissue transglutaminase were developed, but again these tests like all methods before, can reliably reveal only the “heart attack” equivalent of the intestinal celiac syndrome: Significant villous atrophy or bad celiac disease. We are in a new century, a new millennium, and I have built upon what my research predecessors have started; mostly on the work of researchers who laboriously put down tubes and sucked out intestinal fluid for testing for antigliadin antibody when it was not present in blood. We now know that a stool test for antigliadin antibody is just as good and much simpler. The wide-reaching ramifications of knowing that so many more people and patients are gluten sensitive than have ever been previously known has led me to assume a professional life of medical public service. To do so, I started a 501©3 not-for-profit institute called the Intestinal Health Institute, have brought these new diagnostic tests to the public on the internet (at http://www.enterolab.com), and volunteer my time helping people with health problems by email and by lecturing. With greater awareness and education of both the public and medical community that early diagnosis of gluten sensitivity can be achieved before the villi are gone, more of the gluten sensitive iceberg will be diagnosed and treated early, leading to far fewer gluten-related symptoms and diseases than has ever been experienced before. Dr. Fine has been an intestinal researcher and an academic and clinical gastroenterologist for 15 years. He is the Director of The Intestinal Health Institute and The www.EnteroLab.com Clinical Laboratory in Dallas Texas.
  2. Celiac.com 10/09/2013 - This article originally appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity. Ron: Where do celiac disease and non celiac gluten sensitivity come from? Dr. Fine: We're talking about the dietary staple of Western Civilization, right? This is not the staple of the Asian diet or the African diet or the diet for the Americas. Not even all European populations have been eating it as long as those earliest farmers in the Middle East. We have altered the wheat so much, through hybridization and seed selection, to have more gluten and to be more favorable for farming practices, that we have to look at what gluten is ...... a highly antigenic food. It always has been. The coeliac affection was first described in 100 AD. So if we've been eating wheat, or grains, for 10, 000 years, then 8,000 years into this, gluten induced disease was written about, it was probably present long before that. The bottom line is that this is a 10,000 year old food with a 2000 year old description, so this is not a new syndrome. What could be new is that because we have hospitals and tests the resulting diseases can now be identified earlier. Before you had to be near death before anyone knew there was anything wrong with you. But we are certainly able to identify celiac disease before you are dying from it. I really think we are seeing more of an epidemic of non-celiac GS because, I believe, our immune systems are much more reactive than ever before. All autoimmune and immune diseases are on the rise. That's a fact from the NIH. The NIH has even acknowledged that there is probably an environmental component to that increase, and I agree with them. The wheat we grow now is more immune stimulating. The way I see wheat today is that it has become the poison ivy of the western diet. Poison Ivy is a plant that is highly immune stimulating but not everyone reacts to it. Not everyone gets a rash. Even if some do not react, for instance, if they rub poison ivy on their skin, you could probably biopsy the skin and see that it was stimulating an immune reaction but there may never be a rash and the person may never itch. That would be an asymptomatic immune reaction. Then, there are symptomatic people. And then, there are people who truly don't react. It is similar with eating grains. This is the food that brought us to where we are and without grains we couldn't have gotten civilization, we couldn't store food, and we couldn't have gotten all the other things that helped us become civilized. But it went awry. If you look at the Old Testament (The Torah), it says we should never mix two seeds of grain in the same field. I look at this as a warning to keep the seeds away from each other so they don't hybridize. Because when they hybridize, they also change their genetics. Wheat does not stay the same. If you cross this wheat with that wheat, instead of being haploid it becomes tetraploid and hexaploid, so modern wheat is hexaploid. Ancient wheat was haploid, with two chromosomes. So now, we've got to look at this like a public food issue. If the same food that gave us civilization is now causing disease, it's either something we've done or something that's been there all along, plus something we've done to the wheat. And, our environment is stimulating our immune systems so much now that we are reacting more to wheat. In other words, to try to say something like we've got to do something to be able to eat wheat is almost like saying 'we've got to do something so when we walk through a patch of poison ivy, we won't react.' I just don't think it makes sense to say let's find a way to eat a substance that we know is causing mental and brain problems, obesity, immune problems, gut problems, etc. They're really just empty calories anyway. There's no vital nutrients in grains. I think it's valid to ask, why are we so addicted to, or in love with, grains? Why can't we just go on from here without them? Why can't we move forward instead of trying to do everything to figure out how to stay in this current food paradigm? Ron: Maybe that is part of why the gluten free diet has become so popular lately. Dr. Fine: An interesting phenomenon we have seen is that since gluten free food and the whole gluten sensitive thing has become popular talk show material, it has been a little bit de-medicalized. That can actually pose some problems because more people are seeing it as a diet like the fifteen other diets they heard about last week. Instead of "I've got a serious problem and I need an answer, and how do I find out what's wrong with me?" That used to be what it was. People have forgotten that this is a serious medical issue. This isn't just a diet de jour. It is a diet that should be followed consistently and strictly. So maybe we should be trying to communicate where we are in this revolution. The popularizing of the gluten free diet may be harmful to some people because they will think that they have tried the diet and gotten little benefit from it, when really, they have just dabbled in the diet and have not really given it a chance to help. They may never learn that gluten really is causing their health problems because they will think that they have tried it and it didn't work for them. And they are less likely to seek objective tests for gluten sensitivity and other possible causes of their problems. It has been a kind of a mixed blessing that the gluten free diet has become so popular. At least we don't have to fight to get the truth out, but what I don't like is the idea that what used to be a highly objective, credible, medical issue ie: celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity is kind of becoming like the Atkin's diet. You know, "I'm on it. I'm off it. I'm going to go on it next week. Oh, I'm going to a birthday party so I'm going to have some cake, etc." That approach, we all know, is the absolute wrong thing to do. And I think that the people who were almost crippled by gluten, and then got better, are probably upset when somebody looks at the gluten free diet like it's the diet of the week. Ron: I know that you operate a testing laboratory but you also organize academic conferences. Dr. Fine: Yes, I've got two organizations. One is a purely educational, non-profit public organization, called the Intestinal Health Institute. My lecturing, for about 12 years now, is aimed at trying to bring about greater awareness of the health problems caused by gluten and other foods, plus intestinal and overall health. Several years ago when talking about gluten sensitivity, it was almost like getting people to see that the emperor didn't have clothes on. That has improved lately, because public and medical beliefs are changing. As a gastroenterologist in the 1980s, I saw a similar revolution in thinking take place. Somebody came out and said "Ulcer disease is not purely from too much acid. It is a disease caused by this bacterium called Helicobacter pylori." That was unbelievable within the existing paradigm. It started out with people saying: "Did you read that paper? It is absurd!" Then more information came out. Then it became controversial. When an idea becomes controversial, it is threatening something. Someone on one side is trying to protect what is, and someone on the other side has a new idea that may displace the side being protected. What I saw was a process where that idea went from being laughable, to possible. Then, fifteen years later, it became the most popular topic in gastroenterology. It went from 1985 to 2000 when Helicobacter pylori had become "the" topic. And, by the way, research goes pop too. Once a topic begins to be accepted, researchers dive in. I saw that happen at the end of the 1990's too. People with microscopic colitis, which my mentor Dr. John Fordtran had originally discovered and defined, and I researched clinically, pathologically and histopathologically. I found it to be very similar, and epidemiologically, almost identical to celiac disease. But these patients didn't have celiac disease nor did they have the markers of gliadin reactivity in their serum. Then I had this idea one day that maybe the antibodies are inside the intestine because I had heard about a researcher, Anne Ferguson, who had done some very interesting work where they had either sampled the fluid inside the intestine or flushed all the intestinal fluid out and measured antibodies, even though they weren't present in the blood. To me that made perfect sense because that's where your food is and if your immune system is ever going to secrete antibodies, as a first line of defense, it had better get those antibodies inside the intestine because that's where the bacteria are going to be invading. You can't use serum antibody testing when we know that the intestine is, indeed, the site where the problem originates. Dr. Anne Ferguson is the one who found that you can find intra-intestinal antibodies when they weren't present in the blood, so blood is an indirect measure of the presence of celiac disease. Those antibodies mainly get in blood when you have intestinal damage but if you don't, they cannot leak into the blood, it seems. It's apples and oranges. A blood test and a stool test are not the same test. IgA is a secretory antibody. It is made to be secreted into the intestinal tract, the respiratory tract, and anywhere there is a mucosa that interfaces with the world or food or a foreign antigen. That's where you see seceretory IgA and that is what we looked for. When we had the idea and played it out - and let me just say now that other people who have tried to study this, who have usually been studying it with the hypothesis that it is no good, and of course, whatever your bias in research is, you are usually going to wind up finding evidence to support that bias. Nevertheless, when we first did it, we adapted a serum method for stools, and we didn't find it either. You have to go a few steps further. But if you give up on your first try, you always miss it, and so did I. And those with a bias against it will never look any further. Anyway, so we developed a method and it was much more sensitive than finding serum positivity for anti-gliadin antibodies. You've got anti-gliadin antibodies in illnesses other than celiac disease, like irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune diseases like microscopic colitis, chronic fatigue, and so on. So we were looking at numbers like 60% and 75% positive Vs 11% in the blood. We also found fecal gliadin antibodies in 25% of people with no symptoms at all. Still, 75% is a lot higher than 25%. So I knew that I had discovered a new paradigm. And I saw (by the way, that 25%.... at first it was 29% but it eventually averaged out to 25%) a quarter of asymptomatic people reacted positive with stool antibodies. But if you take everybody, because so many people have other diseases, like 15% of the population have irritable bowel syndrome, and nearly 15% have autoimmune disease....... when you add it all up it could be about 50% of people who are reactive to gliadin, as determined by looking for antibodies inside their intestines. Ron: How did you get started on your own? Dr. Fine: I made the transition in 2000, so our anniversary is April 1st, 2000. This is our 13th year. If you've hung around 13 years, I think, that also makes a statement. EnteroLab.com was born because I knew that what I had discovered was, well, what we're really talking about is an epidemic. At that time, I didn't know anything about the "why" or even the "what". I just knew it was a massive problem I had discovered. Maybe I could call myself the Paul Revere of gluten sensitivity. I had to be the one to get on the horse and say "gluten sensitivity is coming". I converted my academic career, which was stellar at the time.... it was very traditional.... 40 publications by the time I was 35 and I worked with what would arguably be one of the most successful researchers in the world, Dr. John Fordtran. And I went out on a limb and put my entire professional reputation and career in jeopardy because I knew this had to be brought to the world. I knew there would be a controversy. The idea, which had been in the medical literature for years..... non-celiac gluten sensitivity can be traced back to at least 1980, so we were already 20 years into that. And I thought if I bring the idea directly to the public, then, because it's a dietary treatment, they can proceed in getting better while we wait 15 to 20 years for the doctors to catch on. What I didn't know at the time is that there's a whole subset of practitioners, like chiropractors, nutritionists, and nurse practitioners, who don't seem to feel so threatened by some major new idea. They caught on quickly. They're the early adopters. Ron: You have traveled a long way since 2000 Dr. Fine: Here's the way I'm looking at what's going on now versus where we started. My observation is that every new idea, every revolutionary finding, seems to happen in two places on opposite sides of the globe. Having happened in Christchurch, New Zealand and in Dallas, Texas would qualify for that. I think Dr. Rodney Ford and I got on the track at about the same time. What I had previously been finding and, I think, what he has found was that these positive anti-gliadin antibodies in the serum, which everyone was casting off as false positives, didn't make sense. How could a quality lab test have a 10% or 12% false positive rate? That's like saying that we can't diagnose anemia without including 10% or more people who don't have it. That would be a bad test. So it didn't seem true that if anti-gliadin antibodies were part of the reaction of celiac disease, why would 10% to 12% of the population have anti-gliadin antibodies in their blood? Well, that's because they are reacting to gliadin. It is the most immunogenic food. They don't have celiac disease, either because they don't have the genes to get it, or they haven't got it yet. Fecal gliadin antibodies were this kind of intermediate thing. Ron: Are you saying that the fecal antibody does not identify a leaky gut, whereas the serum antibody does? Dr. Fine: No, it might imply that, but I wouldn't say that it says that. In fact, in a study that I did, where I looked at serum antibodies, we did permeability studies and fecal fat measurements and biopsies, and some treatment. We found abnormal permeability, as measured by a surcrose permeability test, performed by the authority on that test at the time, Dr. Jon Meddings. He found about half of those with leaky gut had the serum antibodies, not all. Ron: Is there more mainstream research that supports your findings? Dr. Fine: Well, I found a rate of about 11% serum IgG or IgA among people at a shopping center in Dallas. Dr. Marios Hadjivassiliou found IgG antibodies in about 12% of the population, and Dr. Rodney Ford tells me that he has found a rate of about 10% who are gluten sensitive. These are all congruent findings. Fecal Antibodies at 25% of asymptomatic and 60 to 75% of symptomatic people, depending on what disease or symptom you're talking about and then, because those problems are so common, the overall average, from my calculations is 50% overall...... mostly adults. Theoretically, it might be less frequent in children, but I don't have enough children's data to know. Ron: Is your testing similar to Dr. Marsh's rectal challenge testing for celiac disease? Dr. Fine: Yes. I identify one of his references in my manuscript where even siblings without DQ2 or DQ8 can be positive for a rectal challenge, even though they don't have celiac genes or get celiac disease. That's another proof that you don't have to be celiac to be gluten reactive. He did studies on that, a sibling study which was really interesting. What is your vision for future testing & treatment of celiac disease and non celiac gluten sensitivity? Dr. Fine: My lab and myself are just about finding the facts and then helping people to understand those facts. Frankly, to use a metaphor, your vision is only as good as your eyes and your glasses. If your eyes aren't good, good glasses can make your vision perfect. But if you are using the wrong glasses, ie: the wrong test, or the wrong paradigm, then you might be seeing farther than you used to see, but you are not really seeing the truth yet. Ron: Would you care to comment on the whole oats controversy? Dr. Fine: I've got a feel on oats that is a departure from the general view. We have a new test for oat protein sensitivity and it is really showing to be very helpful. We launched a more extensive food sensitivity test panel, 2 years ago, and oats is one of the antigens we included, along with rice and corn and a few meats and nuts and potatoes. What we are seeing sometimes, is people who don't have a reaction to any foods and their oats are through the roof and they are gluten sensitive. I don't know why. Just like it was all or none with celiac.... you could have something in the middle, right? Oats is the same way. It's not all or nothing. Some people are sensitive, and some people are not. We know it's the least stimulating of the four grains. That makes sense because of the biochemistry of the prolamine and glutamine residues, and a lot of antigenic glutens. However, logically, you cannot do a study of tolerating oats in anyone who doesn't tolerate oats. So anyone doing a study where the subject has to consume oats for long periods of time, that could never include someone who is sensitive to oats. The truth about studies that make this claim is that there is a very large withdrawal rate and a large component that can't qualify for the study because it made them vomit or sick in other ways. So the only thing you can conclude is that among the people who can symptomatically tolerate oats, over long periods of time, oats don't seem to cause the villous atrophy of celiac disease, which isn't the best measure anyway, to my thinking. But that does not mean that anybody with celiac disease can tolerate oats and that seems to be the message that has come down to us. We're talking about wheat, barley, and rye, and, we used to think, oats. Now we are saying oats are okay and that is just plain wrong. In fact my own gluten sensitivity became known after increasing my consumption of oats. And if you ever go into a room of gluten sensitive people and give a talk, just ask them "How many people here know that they can't eat oats?" They either get pain, gas, vomiting, or whatever. It's about 20% to 30% who will always raise their hands. To use an analogy, if people had a fear of round light fixtures, and there happened to be big, large round light fixture on the ceiling, how many people could I expect in this room right now to not be afraid of big round light fixtures? None! Those who are afraid of round light fixtures wouldn't come in the room. So nobody who can't eat oats or is afraid to eat oats is going to volunteer or succeed at staying in a study where they have to eat oats for 2 to 5 years. The only people who are going to stay in that study are the ones who want to find out they can eat oats. The researchers certainly have some reason to want to find out they can eat them. So that bias is automatically built into those studies, so the fact is that it has not been proven and people are being misled and frankly, in my opinion, everybody should wait until they get over their symptoms and then maybe do our test or try re-introducing oats. A person who doesn't eat gluten-free cannot know what an insider knows. And, they have a different agenda. They're clearly exclusively a professional. It's kind of like somebody making policy on health food who eats a horribly unhealthy diet. So I see these jaws drop in my lectures when people find out that you can't just automatically assume that you can tolerate oats. You might be able to, but you might not, and there's no way someone can Ron: Will your oats test work after years on a gluten-free diet? Dr. Fine: I don't know. That's a good question. The good thing about the stool test is that the antibodies last a lot longer. You can be gluten-free for one or two years and still we can find antibodies to the wheat gliadin in the stool. I guess that it would be the same for oats. I definitely abhor the idea of a gluten challenge for celiac disease.... especially the biopsy. I mean, the biopsy may not become abnormal for 5 years and they could still be sick. Ron: You mentioned that you follow a gluten-free diet. Can you tell me why? Dr. Fine: I've had spondyloarthropathy since I was about 14. I manage it without drugs and I have no pain. I control it just with diet. Ron: Does your lab do genetic testing? Dr. Fine: Yes, and the gene test that EnteroLab.com offers actually types the gene at the HLA locus, which means our reports indicate "this is the gene you have at the HLA-DQB1 locus".; we don't just say "yes you have the celiac gene", or "no you don't". There is data in the literature, including research I have published that identifies HLA-DQB1*0301, 0303, which are the DQ7 and DQ9 genes, respectively, and DQ1, and we know from Dr. Hadjivassiliou's research that DQ1 (including 05xx and 06xx subtypes) reacts with gluten and represent gluten sensitive genes. Of course, DQ2 and DQ8 are the main celiac HLA-DQB1 genes. The interesting thing is that, in America, it's very rare not to have one of these. Almost everybody does, actually. It just comes down to how many do you have? Which one/ones do you have? Do you have one that seems to be a more reactive one or a less reactive one? And, do you have a celiac gene or two celiac genes? Which is going to mean, if you have two celiac genes or two gluten-sensitive genes, or a celiac gene and a gluten-sensitive gene that every child you have will have at least one of them. So, we prefer our gene test over that of others that merely answers the question “ Do I or do I not have a celiac gene.” Not only is it inexpensive, at about half the price of the other lab that does it, we give you more data. I was doing genetic studies in the 90s, to figure all this information out. For instance, I met Dr. Hadjivassiliou at the International Conference on Celiac Disease at the University of Maryland in August of 2000. Dr. Fasano hosted it. I spoke before Dr. Hadjivassiliou and I showed this association with DQ1,7, or I called it 1,3 with 7 being a subtype primarily but also 9, and so he came to me and said "Well, I've seen associations with my neurologic disease with DQ1, so I'm glad someone else is finding this." So, again, it's not just the antibodies, and it's not just non-celiac gluten sensitive genes, and as far as I know, no other lab is dealing with that except us. The abnormal permeability, in my opinion, is an effect of the immune arrays going on and the primary reaction is the immune response to gluten. You could possibly say that you get altered permeability first and then you get the gluten reaction, but I don't think so. I used to study permeability in humans in vivo. You can look at my CV or go to PubMed.com and put Fine KD and you'll see some early studies about permeability where we used to measure permeability in live human subjects and it was just a given, to me, that abnormal permeability in inflammatory disorders is primarily due to the inflammation and the disruption of tissue, architecture, and the like. I think that the permeability follows the inflammation. Ron: I have dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) and I find that my skin reacts more to oats than other grains. If I eat something that is labeled “gluten-free” but contains oats, I soon find that my DH flares up. I know others with celiac disease and DH who say the same thing. I mention this oats connection in the hope that you might someday do some research to explore that connection. Dr. Fine: We are just about to launch our oat sensitivity fecal IgA test as part of a gluten sensitivity panel because it is playing a little bit different role than testing for other non-gluten foods. It's like when a sophomore seems to be stellar on a football team, they pull him up to the varsity team. So we're pulling the oat test out of the sophomore squad and putting it on the varsity because it was showing up a lot more often and I think it's in the same paradigm as the wheat gliadin separate from other foods. Even though we like to look at it as "other grains". We are seeing a lot of rice sensitivity, some corn sensitivity. Many seem to react to other grains, as I do personally. The news is that we'd like to use April 1st, 2013 as the launch date for our new gluten sensitivity panel because it is an anniversary date for us. We hope to have that new panel available about April 1st, along with a tTG test, and an anti- gliadin fecal IgA test, and maybe even another test for another dietary food antigen, which is an ASCA (anti-Saccharomyces cerevisiae antibodies). It's been associated with Crohn's disease. It's like the diagnostic screening blood test for Crohn's, but more sensitive. We and some other people have looked at it in the stool, so that's just another test that we might put in the panel to make it affordable to get all 4. Ron: Thank you for taking the time to provide our readers with such a comprehensive discussion of your work and the exciting new tests that will soon be available at your lab. Dr. Fine: You are very welcome. It was nice chatting with you. And thank you for the pioneering work that you have done as well!
  3. The following report comes to us from The Sprue-Nik Press, which is published by the Tri-County Celiac Sprue Support Group, a chapter of CSA/USA, Inc. serving southeastern Michigan (Volume 7, Number 6, September 1998). The degree of mucosal damage varies from one celiac patient to another. Also, the amount of the small intestine that is affected also varies, with the damage usually progressing from the beginning of the small intestine and then moving downward toward the end of the small intestine. This may explain the variable symptoms in different patients. For example, when a significant portion of the small intestine is involved, diarrhea, malabsorption, and weight loss result. When damage is isolated to only the top portion of the small intestine, the only affect may be iron deficiency. (Incidentally, when iron deficiency is not corrected by iron supplements, it is highly likely that celiac disease is the cause of the deficiency.) Gluten in a celiacs diet causes the immune system to produce gliadin antibodies in the intestine. Some of these leak into the bloodstream where they can be detected in blood tests. These blood tests are useful for screening for celiac disease, though a small intestinal biopsy remains the gold standard for diagnosing celiac disease (celiac disease). There are few diseases for which diet and nutritional issues are more important than for celiac disease. At this time, the only known treatment of celiac disease is the removal of wheat, barley, rye, and oats from the celiacs diet. On the surface this sounds simple, but complete removal of dietary gluten can be very difficult. Gluten-containing grains are ubiquitous in the Western diet. Also, grain-derived food additives such as partially hydrolyzed vegetable protein [and modified food starch] are widely used in processed foods and oral medications. Content labels are often vague or incomplete regarding these additives. What further complicates matters is a lack of significant experience on the part of physicians and dietitians in the dietary treatment of celiac disease. This is mainly because there are so few celiac patients for anyone practitioner. Therefore the best sources of dietary information for a new patient are other knowledgeable, more experienced celiacs. It is very important that the diet be followed with full and strict compliance. Celiacs, especially if theyve had active celiac disease for a longtime, are at higher than normal risk for GI malignancies.(Fortunately, compliance to a good gluten-free diet returns the risk of malignancy and life expectancy to that of the general population.)Another complication of long-term untreated celiac disease is bone loss, which maybe irreversible in older patients. When a large portion of the small intestine is affected by active celiac disease, the result can be a generalized malabsorption problem, resulting in deficiencies of water- and fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. Folic acid deficiency is particularly common in celiac disease because, like iron, it is absorbed in the upper small intestine [where the highest concentration of celiac-related damage generally occurs]. Folic acid is necessary for DNA replication, which occurs in cell turnover. So a deficiency of folic acid can impair the regenerative ability of the small intestine. Vitamin B12, also essential to DNA synthesis, is not malabsorbed as commonly as folic acid. Magnesium and calcium deficiency are also common in active celiac disease, because of decreased intestinal absorption AND because these minerals tend to bind with malabsorbed fat which passes through the system. It is particularly important for doctors to assess the magnesium status of celiacs, because without correction of a magnesium deficiency, low levels of calcium and potassium in the blood cannot usually be corrected with supplements. In severe cases, magnesium supplementation should be done intravenously because of the tendency of oral magnesium to cause diarrhea. Supplemental calcium generally should be provided to celiacs, possibly with vitamin D, to help restore tissue and bone calcium levels to normal. The exact dose of calcium is not known. Dr. Fine usually recommends 1500-2000 mg of elemental calcium per day, divided into two doses, for several years and sometimes indefinitely. [4], [5], [6] Zinc is another mineral that often becomes depleted in patients with chronic malabsorption. Zinc supplementation (usually the RDA via multi-vitamin and mineral supplements) helps avoid skin rashes and restores normal taste. Up to 20% of celiacs will continue to experience loose or watery stools even after going on a gluten-free diet. Sometimes this is due to inadvertent gluten in the diet, but a recent study at Dr. Fines medical center showed that in these cases other diseases epidemiologically associated with celiac disease are present.[7] These include microscopic colitis, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, lactose intolerance, selective IgA deficiency, hypo- or hyperthyroidism, and Type I diabetes mellitus. When diarrhea continues after beginning a gluten-free diet, a search for these associated diseases or others should be undertaken and treated if found. The use of cortico steroids has been advocated in celiacs when the response to the gluten-free diet is sluggish or absent. This is necessary more often in older than in younger patients. However, pancreatic enzyme supplements (prescribed by a doctor) may be needed to help digestion and resolve ongoing malabsorption in some patients. The endomysial antibody blood test is highly accurate and specific for detecting celiac disease. However, the current method of detecting these antibodies involves an operator looking through a microscope and observing the antibody binding on monkey esophagus or human umbilical cord tissue substrates. The correct interpretation of results is highly dependent on the skill and experience of the technician interpreting the fluorescence pattern through the microscope. Moreover, determination of the amount of antibody present relies upon repeat examinations following dilutions of the blood serum, with the last positive test being reported as a titer. A new discovery was reported by a research group in Germany.[8] The antigen substrate of the endomysial antibodies has been identified. This allows the development of a new test that can detect and measure serum endomysial antibodies in one, chemically-based test run [thus greatly reducing the potential for human error and significantly reducing the time needed for each test--ed.] These new tests should be available for clinical use shortly. In a recent study, Dr. Fine found that the frequency of positive stool blood tests was greater in patients with total villous atrophy relative to partial villous atrophy, and all tests were negative in treated patients without villous atrophy.[9] This suggests that fecal occult blood may be a non-invasive and inexpensive method of following the response of the damaged intestine to treatment. Also, it should be noted that the high frequency of positive tests due to villous atrophy will decrease the accuracy of the tests when used for cancer screening in this same patient population (which is how these tests are normally used by health care providers). There have been two recent reports touting the lack of deleterious effects when 50 grams of oats per day are added to the diet of celiac patients. Although this finding is exciting for celiacs, both studies possess certain limitations. In the first study, published by a Finnish group, the exclusion criteria for symptoms and histopathology were somewhat strict, so that patients with more mild forms of celiac disease seemingly were selected for study. And though no damage to duodenal histology occurred after one year of oats consumption, no physiologic or immunologic parameters of disease activity were measured. Furthermore, several patients in the treatment group dropped out of the study for reasons not mentioned in the article.[10] The second and more recent study involved only 10 patients, studied for twelve weeks. The favorable results of this study must be interpreted with caution because of the small sample size and short study period.[11] Even the one-year treatment period in the Finnish study may be too short to observe a harmful effect, as it is known that small intestinal damage sometimes will not occur for several years following there introduction of gluten to a treated celiac. At the worst, an increase in the incidence of malignancy may result from chronic ingestion of oats, an effect that could take decades to manifest. Therefore, this issue will require further study before oats can be recommended for the celiac diet. 3. From the September 1998 newsletter of the Houston Celiac-Sprue Support Group, a chapter of CSA/USA, Inc. 4. Ciacci C, Maurelli L, et el, Effects of dietary treatment on bone mineral density in adults with celiac disease; factors predicting response, Am J Gastroenterol, 1997; 92 (6): 992-996. 5. Mautalen C, Gonzalez D, et al, Effect of treatment on bone mass, mineral metabolism, and body composition in untreated celiac patients, Am J Gastroenterol, 1997; 2 (2):313-318. 6. Corazza gluten-free, Di Sario A, et al, Influence of pattern of clinical presentation and of gluten-free diet on bone mass and metabolism in adult coeliac disease, Bone, 1996; 18 (6):525-530. 7. Fine, KD, Meyer RL, Lee EL, The prevalence and causes of chronic diarrhea in patients with celiac sprue treated with a gluten-free diet, Gastroenterol, 1997; 112 (6):1830-1838. 8. Dieterich W, Ehnis T, et al, Identification of tissue transglutaminase as the autoantigen of celiac disease, Nat Med, 1997; 3 (7):797-801. 9. Fine KD, The prevalence of occult gastrointestinal bleeding in celiac sprue, N Engl J Med, 1996; 334 (18):1163-1167. 10. Janatuinen EK, Pikkarainen PH, et al, A comparison of diets with and without oats in adults with celiac disease, N Engl J Med, 1995; 333 (16):1033-1037. 11. Srinivasan U, Leonard N, et al, Absence of oats toxicity in adult coeliac disease, BMJ, 1996; 313 (7068):1300-1301.
  4. Celiac.com 02/27/2006 - Kappler M, Krauss-Etschmann S, Diehl V, Zeilhofer H, Koletzko S. Detection of secretory IgA antibodies against gliadin and human tissue transglutaminase in stool to screen for celiac disease in children: validation study. BMJ. 2006 January 28; 332(7535): 213-14. Study Abstract: Objective: To evaluate two commercial stool tests for detection of secretory IgA antibodies against gliadin and human tissue transglutaminase for diagnosis of celiac disease in children with symptoms. Setting: Tertiary care childrens hospital. Participants: Coded stool samples from 20 children with newly diagnosed celiac disease and 64 controls. Six children with celiac disease had stool tests every two weeks for three months after starting a gluten-free diet. Main Outcome Measures: Secretory IgA antibodies against gliadin and human tissue transglutaminase in stool samples, determined in duplicate by using recommended cut-off limits. Results: Sensitivity of fecal antibodies against human tissue transglutaminase was 10% (95% confidence interval 1% to 32%), and specificity was 98% (91% to 100%). For antibodies against gliadin, sensitivity was 6% (0% to 29%) and specificity was 97% (89% to 100%). Optimisation of cut-off limits by receiver operating characteristic analysis and use of results of both tests increased sensitivity to 82%, but specificity decreased to 58%. All follow-up stool tests remained negative, except for two positive anti-gliadin results in one patient, six and 10 weeks after the gluten-free diet was started. Conclusions: Neither stool test was suitable for screening for celiac disease in children with symptoms. Dr. Kenneth Fine Comments on this Study: Dont Throw the Baby Out With the Bath Water! Letter to the Editor BMJ Kamran Rostami, M.D., Ph.D. Department of Medicine, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital Gloucester, UK Kenneth Fine, M.D. The Intestinal Health Institute, Dallas, Texas, USA We have read with interest the article by Kappler et al recently published in your journal (1) and feel several issues deserve mention. This article is very timely in light of the growing worldwide awareness of immunologic sensitivity to dietary gluten and celiac disease, as well as appreciation of its high prevalence; these facts are driving the need for more widely available, low cost, non-invasive screening tests. Stool testing for these disorders holds great promise for screening because it does not require any invasion of body tissues, is of relatively low cost, and could be widely available combining medical care delivery of such tests with home testing. While our first criticism of this study is its small cohort size (20 patients), the results are intriguing, but in our opinion have been misinterpreted by the authors. First, there is a potential methodological flaw in this study whereby a serologic method was apparently transferred intact to analyze stool. The aspects of a serologic ELISA method possibly requiring modification for use in stool include but are not limited to: degree to which the sample is diluted prior to analysis; technique and amount of washing of plates during ELISA analysis (because of greater solid contaminant of fecal fluid vs. serum); mathematical conversion of detected optical density to a Unit; and how that calculated Unit is interpreted relative to a normal vs. abnormal cutoff. Utilizing fecal antigliadin and antitissuetransglutaminase IgA antibody testing in this way were reported to be very insensitive (6-10%) but highly specific (97-98%) for celiac disease. Such results should be interpreted as possibly possessing either a misassigned cutoff value (i.e., one that was too high), or possibly introduction of an artificial element that drove fecal antibody concentrations down (such as over-diluting the stool, improper handling or storage of specimens allowing ex vivo destruction of antibody, or centrifuging the stool at the wrong speed driving antibody into the pellet; the authors mentioned destruction of antibody during transit within the GI tract, but antibody is very stable within the GI tract, and has been detected in stool by many authors). Nevertheless, as performed in this study, such a highly specific stool test for celiac disease could be used as a pre-screening test of sorts, able to specifically and non-invasively detect celiac disease, perhaps with a home collected stool specimen. At the worst, 6-10% of celiac patients could be identified even before presenting to a medical institution. The authors went on to correct a potential cutoff error, using optimization of cut-off limits by receiver operating characteristic analysis, and found that resetting the cut-off value and combining the tests could possess an 82% sensitivity and 58% specificity. Again the authors discounted these findings, in our opinion failing to grasp their importance. Although they did not report the corrected accuracy results of antigliadin test alone, their stool test may have outperformed serum antigliadin antibody, the serologic test in longest use in screening for celiac disease. Many investigators have lost confidence in the presumed lack of specificity of antigliadin antibody alone as a screening test for celiac disease because of the paradigm within which it has been applied, that is, villous atrophic celiac disease. It is also known that its sensitivity is highly dependent on the degree of small intestinal villous atrophy present (2). Most importantly today however, in our opinion, with the wealth of expanding knowledge on the broadening clinical spectrum of gluten-sensitive disorders (3), it should at least have been considered and/or discussed by Kappler et al that in their optimized cut-off analysis, a positive fecal antigliadin antibody may have been a true sign of immunologic sensitivity to gluten either in an evolutionary phase before the onset of villous atrophic celiac disease (4), or in gluten sensitive individuals who may never develop classic celiac disease but who suffer symptoms and associated autoimmune disorders nevertheless. When interpreted in this context, the authors results may have been clinically important. We feel further study of this method with improved attention to methodological issues pertaining to stool, and broader clinical application beyond classic celiac disease is warranted. References: 1. Kappler M, Krauss-Etschmann S, Diehl V, Zeilhofer H, Koletzko S. Detection of secretory IgA antibodies against gliadin and human tissue transglutaminase in stool to screen for celiac disease in children: validation study. BMJ. 2006 January 28; 332(7535): 213-14. 2. Rostami K, Kerckhaert J, Tiemessen R, von Blomberg BM, Meijer JW, Mulder CJ. Sensitivity of antiendomysium and antigliadin antibodies in untreated celiac disease: disappointing in clinical practice. Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Apr;94(4):888-94. 3. Ferguson A, Arranz E, OMahony S. Clinical and pathological spectrum of celiac disease--active, silent, latent, potential. Gut. 1993 Feb;34(2):150-1. 4. Arranz E, Ferguson A. Jejunal fluid antibodies and mucosal gamma/delta IEL in latent and potential celiac disease. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1995;371B:1345-8.
  5. Celiac.com 12/31/2002 - Long time celiac and intestinal disease researcher Kenneth Fine, M.D. brought the benefits of his research discoveries, and his medical experience and knowledge to the public through the Internet at www.finerhealth.com, www.enterolab.com, and through a nationwide commitment to lecturing celiac support groups at no charge. Now Dr. Fine has found a new way to serve gluten sensitive individuals and their support organizations: through music! Dr. Fine has been a singer-songwriter/guitar player for many years and recently recorded 25 of his original songs in a recording studio with professional studio musicians. These songs are now available on two CDs. After much thought and prayer about how to incorporate more music into his life and how to share it with the public, Dr. Fine has decided to let his musical creativity join his medical professional mission in the sense of working to serve the public. Therefore, he has decided to donate all proceeds from music celiac disease sales to support the not-for-profit public health organization he started in 2000, The Intestinal Health Institute (http://www.intestinalhealth.org), and to support other service organizations as well. The first public service organization he has chosen to support is Americas Gluten Sensitivity support organizations and their local support groups. "My life is fully committed to public service, and I want as many people as possible to enjoy the wonderful health that I, and hopefully you, have experienced since adopting a gluten-free and health-oriented lifestyle. I believe that happiness through music (or by any means) is an important part of health," says Dr. Fine. Dr. Fine is offering his music CDs to local celiac support groups to sell as a fund raiser. He also plans musical performances as benefit shows with other music recording artists, and is putting together a group of professional musicians willing to work in a spiritual light to share their musical gifts with the world for a healthy cause. Although Dr. Fine will be bringing his musical hobby to the public in this way, his professional health work, i.e., heading the Intestinal Health Institute and EnteroLab laboratory, public speaking, answering the publics email inquiries, helping people individually by phone, and doing medical research and scientific publishing, will continue unabated. About the name he has chosen to use for his music, Dr. Fine offered this; "To ensure that my desire to share my music with the public does not interfere with my ability to carry out my public health mission, I have opted to use my biblical name, Jude, for my musical last name." Thus, you can peruse his musical web site, read the stories behind his lyrics, and hear song clips at http://www.kennyjude.com
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