In last week’s Natural Healthy Concepts blog, we answered the most commonly asked questions about Celiac Disease (CD). (October was National Celiac Disease Awareness Month.) While working on that blog and researching CD, my interest in the disease was keenly heightened and took me to a powerful article, Better Education for Celiac and Gluten-Sensitive Patients, published in the Autumn 2010 issue of the new Journal of Gluten Sensitivity by Dr. Vikki Petersen.
Dr. Vikki, a Chiropractor and Certified Clinical Nutritionist of nearly 25 years, is co-founder and co-director of the HealthNow Medical Center of Sunnyvale, California, and author of a new book, The Gluten Effect. Dr. Vikki shared findings about a recent study conducted by the Division of Gatroenterology and Hepatology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine researching mucosal recovery and mortality in adults with CD after treatment with a gluten-free diet. Their findings –
Of 381 adults with biopsy-proven CD, 241 had both diagnostic and follow-up biopsy. Among the 241, the confirmed mucosal/intestinal recovery 2 years later was 34% and at 5 years later was 66%. One of the most important findings from this study was that, even though (82%) reported some positive clinical changes with gluten-free diet (GFD), a large number of adults see no reliable mucosal recovery and persistent intestinal damage continues. There was a trend toward an association between mucosal recovery and a reduced rate of death. Or, in other words, there was a trend between persistent intestinal damage and increased risk for death! Bottom line of the study is eliminating gluten is not sufficient treatment to intestinal healing. This study focused on adults who know they have CD. Reality is less than 4% of people with CD are diagnosed in the U.S. So, what is happening to the nearly 97% who don’t know they even have CD?
Based on the study findings, Dr. Vikki boldly states (and admits it is terribly upsetting to state) that Celiacs need to be told the truth that, unless they strictly comply to GFD and heal their intestine, they are on a “fast track towards intestinal destruction and early death”. In addition to better education, Dr. Vikki advocates that Celiacs need to do the following:
• Maintain a perfect avoidance of gluten.
• Test for any imbalance of probiotic (good bacteria) organisms in the gut. Dr. Mercola often sites the scientific research that “about 80% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract”. Gluten disease suppresses the immune system by reducing the good bacteria and allowing bad bacteria/microorganisms to invade. A “robust balance” of probiotics is needed to nourish good bacteria, boost your immune system and successfully keep the intestines healthy. There are many probiotics to choose from and we generally recommend a multi-strain. One of our most popular shelf-stable probiotics is Ortho Biotic by Ortho Molecular. If you prefer a refrigerated probiotic, HLC Intensive by Pharmax is recommended as well.
• Evaluate the need for digestive enzymes. Enzymes help break down our food and supply fueling nutrients. Our body makes enzymes from the nutrients we digest. Unfortunately, CD is also a disease of malabsorption resulting in lack of proper nutrients during digestion. Natural Healthy Concepts recommends Quantum Digest by Quantum Nutrition Labs a popular broad spectrum digestive enzyme supplement. For protein digestion, Betaine HCL by Quantum Nutrition Labs is a good choice, especially for vegetarians as it is beet-derived betaine hydrochloric acid, not synthetic or animal source.
• Eat plenty of fiber (good bacteria loves fiber), drink plenty of water and eat lots of fresh vegetables.
• Test to ensure that the intestine is healing. Talk to your health care practitioner about intestinal repair supplementation, like Intestional Repair Complex by BioGenesis or GI Repair Powder by Vital Nutrients.
I heard in a video clip last week another physician talk about CD as the “clinical chameleon” because the disease presents itself in so many different ways. Did you know there are 60 documented destructive health disorders in literature that CD affects? Only 1 of 8-9 Celiacs have intestinal celiac symptoms, contributing to the undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. That osteoporosis or diabetes or weight loss or psoriasis can’t be Celiac Disease – can it be?
- Who Gets Celiac Disease? (everydayhealth.com)
- Gluten Intolerance (terrytalksnutrition.com)
- Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Celiac Disease (everydayhealth.com)