Gluten-free diets are “hot” but for those with celiac disease, gluten-free diets are a necessity that will not go away. What is celiac disease? Where can you go for more information? See below for the top 5 Celiac Research Centers.
Many of our favorite foods- a slice of pizza, a chocolate chip cookie, a flaky biscuit—were unknown to our ancestors. All of these comfort foods contain wheat, a grain not grown by man until "recently"—about 7000 years ago. Of course, you have to take into consideration that Homo Sapiens, our nearest ancestors, have been on the planet about 100,000 years, 90,000 of which they ate only what they could find. This is the equivalent of a 45 year old man making wheat a part of his diet for the first time at the age of 42.
Interestingly enough, today wheat has become part of a growing controversy about carbohydrates. Just how much bread, pasta, cake, and pizza can we eat without getting fat? Do these carbo-loaded foods make us sluggish? Are they good for our blood type? The questions are endless. Unfortunately, so are the answers. But one thing is for sure. Wheat can make many of us sick. For people with celiac disease, the concerns are far more serious than whether wheat will make them fat.
Celiac is a genetic intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, it triggers their immune system to attack the lining of their small intestine. This reaction causes inflammation and interferes with the digestion of vitamins, minerals and other vital nutrients. Currently, the only effective treatment for celiac disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet.
Celiac is thought to be the most common genetic disease in the United States and Europe. It has also been identified in people from South America, the Near East, India, Pakistan, Cuba and North Africa. Recent studies indicate that as many as 1 in 100 Americans of European descent may have the disease, although the actual diagnosis rate is 1 in 4000. It is estimated that there are two million people in the United States with undiagnosed celiac. Perhaps even more alarming, it is the most misdiagnosed disease in America. Symptoms can be severe, mild or non-existent; close to 25% of newly diagnosed cases exhibit no obvious symptoms. Those with symptoms are often told they have other intestinal, digestive, emotional, and dermatological problems (including Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn's Disease, Diverticulitis, depression and arthritis). Many doctors not only fail to correctly screen for celiac, they fail to consider it in the first place. The average time for correct diagnosis in the United States is over six years!
Symptoms include: chronic diarrhea, constipation, bloating, stomach pain, severe gastroesophageal reflux, skin rash, tooth enamel discoloration, joint and muscle pain, diabetes, thyroid disease (and any other autoimmune syndrome of which there is an almost end-less number including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, dermatomyositis, psoriasis, alopecia areata, hepatitis, etc.), Hepatitis C, asthma, chronic liver disease, osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia, chronic fatigue, short stature in children, female infertility, ADD, ADHD, and other learning problems, peripheral neuropathy, seizures, and other neurologic syndromes, depression and other psychiatric syndromes. In addition, Autism is emerging as a syndrome that may improve with a gluten-free diet.
Why are so many people sensitive to gluten?
Early man hunted for meat and fish and gathered fruits, seeds, herbs, tubers, and roots. As civilization progressed, plant crops of complex carbohydrates were cultivated for the purpose of stabilizing food supplies. Rice was the cultivated species in Asia, sorghum and millet in Africa, and in America, maize was the major crop. Wheat and barley containing very low gluten content were grown only in Southwest Asia. As time went on, farming of wheat and barley spread into Europe. But our ancestors never ate bread, as we know it today.
The industrial and agricultural revolution of the past 200 years has changed our diet faster than we can change genetically. Today our wheat crops have a high gluten content (50% higher in some cases) for the purpose of improved bread baking, and with it, we see a rise in the prevalence of gluten intolerance, 400% in the past 40 years. Just as humans are predisposed to store excess calories as fat, the same genetic makeup that tolerated wheat with low gluten levels, cannot "stomach" modern foods with high gluten levels.
Unfortunately, we Americans have come to rely on wheat to fill our bellies. Instead of dining on the fruits, vegetables, meats and fish eaten by our ancestors, today our diets are loaded with wheat (and gluten) based foods: breads, pastas, pizza, cookies, muffins and bagels. Gluten is also the second largest additive for all packaged foods (sugar is the largest). The average American eats 800 calories of grains per day, mostly in the form of wheat.
What does this mean for me?
It means that if you or a family member has any of the symptoms listed above, you should insist on celiac testing. Be especially insistent if you experience non-typical symptoms such as ADD or ADHD, learning problems, depression, thyroid disease, seizures or infertility problems. But be aware, you may have to argue for testing even if you have more typical symptoms such as stomach pains or irritable bowel syndrome. Do not take "no" for an answer from your doctor. Remember, the current average time to get a correct diagnosis for celiac in the United States is more than five years. Doctors routinely refuse to consider the removal of gluten as the cure for many of their patient's ailments. It is easier for them to prescribe medicine. Don't let it happen to you. For more information about celiac disease go to:
The above article was written by Annalise Roberts and Dr. Claudia Pillow:
The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook http://www.foodphilosopher.com/
All of Hail Merry Snacks are Certified Gluten-Free
Celiac Disease Research Centers:
1. University of Maryland Centers for Celiac Research: http://celiaccenter.org/
Led by Dr. Alessio Fasano, the Center for Celiac Research includes a multidisciplinary team of gastroenterologists, pediatricians, dieticians and nurses who work together to develop individualized treatment plans for people with Celiac Disease. Celiac patients and their families also receive life-style counseling and dietary support to help them avoid foods containing gluten.
2. Columbia University Celiac Disease Center NYC: http://www.celiacdiseasecenter.columbia.edu
Under the guidance of Peter Green, M.D, a recognized expert on celiac disease in the country, the CDCC is one of the leading centers for celiac disease in the United States. Patient care is the main aim of the Center. Individualized patient care is managed by the Center and may include referrals to specialists in fields such as pediatric gastroenterology, hematology, dermatology, infertility, nutrition, metabolic bone disease, neurology, oncology and endocrinology.
3. University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center Research Program: http://www.celiacdisease.net/research-and-education
The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center Research Program, led by Dr. Bana Jabri, is focused on making new discoveries in the pathogenesis of celiac disease that will impact on the treatment, follow-up and diagnosis of celiac disease. The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center Research Team contributes to many multi-center studies and collaborates with some of the best research teams in the world. It is the only center in the nation to offer in-depth training for doctors and other medical professionals regarding celiac disease.
4. WM Warren Medical Research Center for Celiac Disease University of California: http://celiaccenter.ucsd.edu/
Led by Dr. Martin Kagnoff, and a $2.5 million research grant from the Oklahoma-based William K. Warren Foundation, researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine have joined in the fight against Celiac Disease. The mission of the Center is to advance the knowledge of Celiac Disease pathogenesis and to develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic advances. Community activities include increasing the medical and local community's knowledge about Celiac Disease. The Center clinics at UCSD aim to provide state-of-the-art clinical care and education to adults and children with celiac disease.
5. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Boston http://www.bidmc.org/celiaccenter
Led by Dr. Thomas Lamont, The BIDMC Celiac Center is the only multidisciplinary center in New England specializing in the care of patients with celiac disease and other gluten sensitive disorders. Internationally recognized experts —gastroenterologists, nutritionists and experts in allergy, bone health and endocrinology — have extensive experience in managing all aspects of celiac disease including treatment of refractory sprue.