Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, Wheat & Multiple Food Allergies

by Thomas Brunoski, MD*  .  10 Mar 2008

More than two million Americans may be gluten intolerant, and most don’t know it. Recent studies indicate one in five.

Gluten is found in many cereal grains such as wheat, rye and barley. In those with sensitivity, the small intestine becomes inflamed and nutrients are not absorbed properly. Classic symptoms include itchy skin rash, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and other intestinal distress, but some sufferers have anemia, headaches, hair loss, joint pain, liver inflammation, compromised immunity and even seizures.

It has been proven that strict adherence to a gluten-free diet improves the health and quality of life for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. You can’t just reduce your gluten intake; your diet has to be 100 percent gluten-free. And you can’t “cheat.” The damage to your intestine from a meal with gluten takes time to heal. It’s this damage that leads to symptoms, so symptoms continue long after that one meal containing gluten is out of your system.

What is GFCF?

This is a dietary intervention to lessen the digestive and bowel issues sometimes found in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Recent research indicates that there are children with a genetic predisposition to the disorder which is then triggered by some as yet undetermined event which can cause a “leaky gut” (sometimes evidenced by resulting chronic loose stools as the child cannot properly digest these proteins.) If this happens, wheat and dairy are then metabolized as opiates. It is believed that by eliminating gluten (wheat) and milk protein (casein), the gut will begin to heal and the child’s overall condition will improve somewhat.

For some children, eliminating gluten and casein helps lessen self-stimulating behaviors, increases focus, and resolves gastro-intestinal distress. That’s why many parents swear by it.

Aristo Vojdani, PhD, MT, CEO of the Immunosciences Lab, Inc., a microbiology and immunology research facility in Beverly Hills, California has found that about one-third of autistic children have gluten sensitivity. According to Dr. Vojdani’s research, the antibodies against gluten impact the function of the brain. What happens in the brain — very roughly speaking — is this – both celiac sufferers and those who are gluten sensitive can’t digest the gluten peptide (peptides are very short proteins made up of an amino acid chain).

Gluten peptides escape from the GI tract and get into the blood. Antibodies then form to fight these intruders. In spite of the antibodies, some of the gluten peptides manage to cross into the brain. Once there, they bind to receptors known as opioid receptors, which are primarily responsible for sensing positive pleasure-like stimuli. Like in a child’s game of musical chairs, since the gluten peptides already have claimed a place on the receptors, when the opioid peptoids try to bind, there isn’t any room. It is as if the gluten peptides have elbowed them out of line. The result is neurological impairment, which manifests in autism, ADHD or migraines.

Dr. Vojdani suggests having a blood test to determine the presence or absence of the antibodies to gluten. This is a simple test, he says, and it will tell you if gluten sensitivity is an issue. If antibodies are present, you should eliminate gluten completely from the diet.

The diet is not a cure for autism nor is it a substitute for traditional one-on-one intervention. Rather, by making the child more comfortable, the child becomes more receptive to learning (not to mention the potential positive impact in the child’s overall health, demeanor, and possible reduction in negative behaviors). Diabetes There seems to be a link between type 1 diabetes and celiac disease.

About 1 in 20 people with type 1 diabetes has celiac disease. One of the symptoms is unexplained low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Even in the general population, including people with type 2 diabetes, the rate could be as high as 1 in 250.

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*reprinted with permission from Thomas Brunoski, MD, nutritional medicine, Westport, Connecticut.