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Celiac Disease and a Gluten Free Diet

Editor's Note: This is the first in a two part series on celiac disease

I have to admit, despite a thorough naturopathic medical education, I didn't take celiac disease (CD) seriously enough - until recently. 

I hope you don't take it lightly, because the very food that you and your family are eating, instead of nourishing you, could instead be causing or contributing to hundreds of serious health conditions - even causing premature death - all from what you might have thought was "good for me!"

It was after attending Dr. Thomas O'Brien, DC's all-day talk, on "Unlocking the Secrets of Gluten Sensitivity," and upon witnessing the complete transformation of patients, ranging in ages from 2 to 76, simply from refraining from wheat and gluten, that I am on my own mission to educate the public about the serious consequences of undiagnosed celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

CD is a permanent intolerance to gluten, found in wheat, spelt, rye, barley, possibly oats, and other grains.  Corn and rice have no gluten.  The clinical presentation of CD can range from the classical syndrome of malabsorption (chronic diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal distension and failure to thrive) to symptoms and conditions that can affect any organ system.

"It is a historical misconception," says Dr O'Bryan that "gluten sensitivity is regarded as principally a disease of the small intestine."

A failure by physicians to appreciate that many individuals with the disease initially present without digestive symptoms is another reason why CD testing may not be performed.

If you are searching for the cause of an illness, you will want to consider gluten intolerance in conditions, such as: AD(H)D; Alzheimer's; anemia; anxiety; autism; all autoimmune diseases, especially MS, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid diseases, type 1 diabetes; chronic fatigue; depression; edema; infertility; migraines; muscle pain and weakness; neurological conditions; osteoporosis; Parkinson's; schizophrenia and dozens of others. 

An estimated 3 million Americans (3 of 4 are women) suffer from celiac disease, the majority of those cases go undetected or misdiagnosed.  After initial symptoms, the majority of Celiac patients had visited 5 or more doctors, and a median lag of 8 years prior to diagnosis. 

About 47% of patients will have been diagnosed, and of those with classical symptoms of CD, 59% have been misdiagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome.
The medical journal, Lancet, estimated that the ratio of recognized to unrecognized CD in children is 1 to 14.  For every symptomatic patient with CD there are eight patients with no GI sxs.   Every time the disease is clinically diagnosed in an adult, that person has for decades had disease in a latent or silent stage.  Some 25% of patients receive their diagnosis after 60.

Death was most significantly affected by diagnostic delay, pattern of presentation, and adherance to the Gluten Free Diet (GFD).  Non-adherence to the GFD, defined as eating gluten once-per-month increased the relative risk of death 600%.

Testing and follow-up nutritional plans are available through licensed naturopathic doctors.

Please see Part 2 on celiac disease next month.


Dr. Dennis Godby, Doctor of Naturopathy, Sutter Medical Foundation.

He may be reached online or at his Sacramento Office (916) 446-2591.

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