Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease

Both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are conditions in which the bodies immune system responds to proteins found in grains such wheat, barley, spelt and rye. The bodies immune system response is not just isolated to the gastrointestinal tract but, can cause inflammation by the immune system throughout the body and brain! These conditions can lead to an enormous number of symptoms and other conditions that are often misdiagnosed,, treated improperly or go untreated for years.

The existence of celiac disease (CD) is often suspected when there is chronic spells of diarrhea, malabsorption, muscular weakness/wasting, general swelling, anemia, low blood calcium, low B vitamin levels, vitamin D deficiency and osteopenia/osteoporosis. Many times these symptoms will vary in intensity and frequency. This often can to treatment of the symptoms of CD and not the actual cause of CD.

Most physicians will confirm CD with a battery of blood tests, but ultimately a biopsy of the intestines is done to actual examine the tissue change of the lining of the upper portion of the intestines, namely the duodenum and jejunum. Normally the intestines contain a velvety lining the contains finger-like projections called villi. These villi would be analogous to a shag carpet. This is where we get our absorption of our nutrients. However, with CD these villi are flattened, shortened or missing, there are increased “crevices” in the intestinal lining and there is a huge increase in white blood cells called lymphocytes that invade the lining. So it almost looks like there are bald spots, flattened spots, holes and stains in the shag carpet.

Gluten sensitivity (GS) is very similar to CD and involves an immune system response but, does not seem to demonstrate the same intestinal changes or level of symptoms as full blown CD. However, GS should not be ignored and it can cause huge problems in the body. Often, if someone is not having a lot of gastrointestinal symptoms they can have what they call “silent” CD or GS. Both “silent” CD or GS can have effects particularly on the nervous system, brain, musculoskeletal system and many other organs in the body.

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