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Does Everyone Have Celiac Disease Now?

A letter from Dr. O’Brien

It seems like every restaurant now has gluten free menu items.  Is this just another American fad like the South Beach Diet?  No, truth is, the wheat has changed.   After decades of hybridization (“genetically-modified”) to make wheat more resistant to drought and disease and to grow better, this appears to have changed the makeup of the wheat. Grains have a number of fermentable sugars – such as fructans and galactans – which are now increased as a result of changes in enzymes in the wheat.  And it is not just wheat.  “Gluten” is a protein found in wheat and barley and rye.   Some people have antibodies against enzymes in gluten.  If they are high enough, the person will have a positive celiac blood test.  A person with celiac can have an increase in a substance called zonulin, which in turn can make the intestines “leaky” and allow some substances into the body that are normally kept out.  Some other people are negative to the celiac test, but they do have a positive blood test to DQ2 or DQ8, two genetic markers that are associated with gluten sensitivity.  People with these genetic markers may not actually have celiac disease (if that test is negative) but still could have sensitivity to gluten.  This is now being called “non-celiac gluten sensitivity”.  Visit your provider to get these blood tests done and counseling about gluten sensitivity.  It may be good to get food allergy testing done also.  Wheat is now recognized as causing inflammation in some human beings.  Some people are finding that they feel better on a gluten free diet even if all of their tests are negative. Discuss these issues with your provider.

Kevin O’Brien, MD

Allergist – IMMUNOe Health Centers