Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes certain characteristic changes in the lining of the small intestine. The trigger for Celiac Disease is a severe reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat and some other grains. Although there is a blood test for Celiac Disease, it is not always reliable and the standard for diagnosis is an intestinal biopsy to identify the changes that are typical of this illness.
Although Celiac Disease used to be considered rare, there is evidence that the incidence of this serious and sometimes life-threatening illness has been growing. A recent study that compared military records from 50 years ago to current ones concluded that over this time period the incidence of Celiac disease rose from one case in 700 people to one in just one hundred (Gastroenterology, 2009 July; 137(1): 88-93). The reasons for this explosion are not entirely clear but there is a probable link to changes in the composition and processing of food, as well as new environmental challenges to the immune system.
Aside from Celiac Disease, people can suffer from different types of sensitivity to gluten that are not associated with the same characteristic intestinal changes. Mainstream medicine does not recognize these other forms of sensitivity to gluten, but many doctors and nutritionists, myself included, strongly believe they exist and are common. Read More »