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Gluten Sensitivity

It could be about life and death.

As gluten free breads, cakes, snacks and menus are becoming more popular, many people are asking, "What's all the fuss??"

The fuss may include an early death!  The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) put out a study in 2009 stating that individuals who were sensitive to gluten had a 39-72% increased risk of mortality, the higher end being those not adhering to a gluten free diet.  For people like myself (Meghan), being diagnosed with celiac disease (CD) as a teenager was nothing short of a blessing. 

While knowledge is growing that gluten can cause serious damage in the intestines of individuals with CD, not many people are aware of the research showing that gluten sensitivity can also manifest in just about every other organ in the body.  I was lucky to be among the 12.5% of those sensitive to gluten that had symptoms manifest in the gut.

The American Journal of Gastroenterology contains a research study stating that "for every symptomatic patient with celiac disease there are eight patients with celiac disease and no gastrointestinal symptoms."  So while CD (found in the gut) is one manifestation of gluten sensitivity, perhaps a new definition of CD is needed to include gluten sensitivity outside of the gut.

Dr. Tom O'Bryan, one of the country's leading doctors on the effects of gluten, has been traveling around the country giving seminars on gluten sensitivity after losing his godmother to liver disease secondary to gluten sensitivity.  He has made it his life mission to educate health professionals and the public to be aware of the conditions that may be caused by gluten sensitivity. 

After attending his conference this past weekend, we have also been re-inspired to educate about the many manifestations of gluten sensitivity.  Dr. Godby previously wrote an article titled "Gluten Sensitivity Shows up all over patient's body." The following is an excerpt from that article.

Below is a partial list of symptoms and conditions associated (see our website for a more complete list) with gluten sensitivity that warrant testing:

  • Children: Slow to develop, failure to thrive, chronic diarrhea, projectile vomiting and abdominal bloating. About 70% of the children with untreated CD and ADD show exactly the same abnormal brain wave patterns; untreated CD in children/adolescents increases prevalence of disruptive and depressive behaviors.
  • Neurological and behavioral conditions: Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, migraine headaches, peripheral neuropathy and childhood developmental conditions, such as autism and ADHD - also show strong sensitivities to wheat.
  • Schizophrenia: common in CD patients, and rare in cultures where gluten grains are rarely eaten.  Antibodies sometimes enter the brain, potentially causing irreversible damage, epilepsy, and progressive neurological disorders.

If you or your loved ones have some of these symptoms, please get tested for gluten sensitivity; it might just save their life, quantity and quality.

    There is a Celiac Disease monthly support group in Sacramento and Davis.  Please contact Diane Craig at or 916-483-8546.

Feel free to contact Dietitian Meghan (who has celiac disease) at or Dr. Godby at or 916.446.2591 or visit our site at   

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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