The History of Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a serious condition, which can adversely affect one’s health and lifestyle, however, a gluten-free diet can help maintain the disease and provide health benefits. But can someone without this common autoimmune disorder achieve the same health benefits as someone who has this condition? Celiac disease is a genetic digestive disorder in which the person eats food that contains gluten, “their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi–the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine.

Villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food one eats…. an abnormal immune reaction to gluten” (“Celiac Disease” 2). Diagnosing celiac disease can be very difficult because its symptoms are very similar to other diseases. Celiac disease can be confused with “irritable bowel syndrome, iron-deficiency anemia caused by menstrual blood loss, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, intestinal infections, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

As a result, celiac disease has long been underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed” (“Celiac Disease” 6). “Today, it’s estimated that one in 100 people have celiac disease” (Parker-Pope 5). It is also estimated that 1. 8 million Americans suffer from this condition, and “more than 2 million people in the United States have celiac disease but don’t know it” (Lapid 3). If people compare those numbers to numbers from 50 years ago, celiac disease has made a drastic jump; the number of people with celiac disease today is four times as greater. Many researchers believe that this large increase is by the way that wheat is grown and processed.

Due to genetic engineering, wheat is able to grow faster and in larger quantities, but somewhere along the way it is more allergenic than it was when it first appeared. Unfortunately, there is no cure for celiac disease. The only known treatment is to follow a gluten-free diet. Following this strict diet means that you can’t eat anything with flour. Gluten is also hidden in the places we would least expect it. “It makes soups and gravies thicker, and salad dressings creamier. It keeps yogurt and soft cheeses from getting runny, and dried spices from clumping in their little jars” (Lapid 3).

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance isn’t just a new condition that scientists just discovered. The earliest records of people reacting to gluten have been traced back to 250 A. D. Aretaeus of Cappadocia, one of the best doctors in ancient Greece, included intricate descriptions of an “unnamed disease” in his writings. Many of his patient’s symptoms he wrote, were the same symptoms that doctors look for in diagnosing possible celiacs. In 1888, Dr. Samuel Gee was studying children’s dietary habits when he discovered that when some children ate certain foods, their bodies would react in different ways.

He performed many tests, but two notable ones were the mussel diet, and the banana diet. In the mussel diet, he fed a very ill child the best mussels every day during mussel season. He thrived, until the end of the season. His health declined, and he passed away before the next season could come. With the banana diet, he selected 10 children, and gave eight of those 10 children a specific diet, which included bananas, and eliminated “all bread, crackers, potatoes and cereals” (Stone 7). All eight children that were on the diet were claimed to be cured, while the other two children who weren’t on the diet died.

“For several decades, the banana diet was the only cure for celiac disease” (Stone 7). Through these clinical trials, he proved his theory that regulating “‘the food is the main part of treatment. The allowance of farinaceous foods must be small, but if the patient can be cured at all, it must be by means of diet’” (Stone 6). Even though Aretaeus and Gee made great discoveries in their time and day, Willem Karel Dicke, MD should be known as the the one who made the gluten-free breakthrough on how it affects the body.

In the 1940s and 1950s, he saw how wheat would affect certain children, and by 1952, “Dicke recognized that the disease is caused by the ingestion of wheat proteins, not carbohydrates” (Adams 3). In post-war times, he ran more tests with more children in collaboration with doctors across the globe. Together, they all confirmed that the damage to the lining of the small intestine was directly related to celiac disease. Gluten was “the trigger for celiac disease, and the gluten free diet became standard treatment” (Delude 6). From there on, gluten free diets were appointed to children who matched the symptoms.

From the sudden outburst in gluten-free products and treatment, it seems that the autoimmune disorder was just discovered a few years ago. The gluten free diet has been endorsed by many celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, who calls it the “21-day ‘cleanse diet’” (Kam 1). Even Miley Cyrus, famous actress/singer, went on her twitter account saying nothing but good things about eliminating gluten from your diet in early 2012. “‘Everyone should try no gluten for a week! The change in your skin, physical and mental health is amazing.

You won’t go back! ’” (Eggenberger 4) Like any other condition, celiac disease can have horrible short and long-term symptoms if it is left untreated. A few short-term symptoms include: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fuzzy-mindedness after eating wheat, and irritability. These symptoms are mostly shown after a few minutes to hours after eating wheat, so if these symptoms appear frequently, you might consider being tested for celiac disease. However, if these symptoms are ignored for a long period of time, life-threatening conditions can develop.

Malnutrition is one of the many conditions that can evolve from untreated celiac disease. Even when undiagnosed celiacs are eating healthily, their small intestines are unable to absorb the nutrients in the food. “Malnutrition in untreated celiacs can cause weight loss, anemia, and vitamin deficiencies that many result in fatigue, stunted growth, neurological problems, and low bone density” (Lapid, 2). The said neurological problems are depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, seizures, and severe headaches. Another long-term effect is decreased calcium levels and osteoporosis.

Calcium and vitamin D are hard to absorb in the small intestine as well as with the other nutrients that are lost, which can lead to kidney stones, osteomalacia, and osteoporosis. “Interestingly, bone diseases can occur in people with milder forms of celiac disease who do not appear to have malabsorption. Bone density can actually improve once the gluten-free diet is started” (Lapid 3). If celiac disease is left untreated for a long period of time, there is an increased chance that the person can develop gastrointestinal cancer, such as lymphoma. “Even with this increased risk, however, these cancers are rare in celiac patients” (Lapid 5).

If the thought of celiac disease crosses your mind when you are feeling ill after eating wheat, it’d be best to get tested than waiting until your doctor tells you that you have lymphoma. Once a newly diagnosed celiac starts their new lifelong diet, many changes will occur. For starters, they will obviously be unable to ingest any wheat products. Wheat is just another complex carbohydrate that provides calories, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. You can get all the nutrients that wheat provides from other food. If you know the right ways to make it successful, you can be better off without even thinking about needing wheat in your life.

For starters, many of the symptoms before the diagnosis will begin to disappear. This is because the small intestinal tract has begun to repair itself because of the lack of wheat in the digestive system. “Doctors are finding that gluten-free diets have the benefits of: losing weight, increasing energy levels, improving cholesterol levels, promoting digestive health, reducing your risk of heart disease, reducing your risk of certain cancers, and reducing your risk of diabetes” (“The Potential Health Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet” 2).

By eliminating gluten, you are most likely to ingest more fruits and vegetables, because “it’s one of the few food sources available that is non-starchy, and almost completely gluten-free” (“The Potential Health Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet” 3). Another perk to being gluten free is your immune system gets a great boost. Because you are eating more fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in anti-oxidants and vitamins and minerals, the boost will help your immune system protect itself from viruses and germs, creating a longer and healthier life!

It is also important to avoid processed foods. “Many processed foods contain a lot of gluten, chemicals, and artificial flavors that are not healthy. These overly processed foods also often have fewer nutrients” (Peterson 7). Many people who aren’t celiac say that they go gluten-free for one reason; to lose weight. People assume that a gluten-free diet is the wheat-free key to weight loss, but that’s not the case. “‘There’s a misconception that it’s very, very healthy and you’re automatically going to lose weight on it. Not true. It’s not necessarily healthy.

It has to be done properly’” (Kam, 3). Gluten-free products don’t have all the vitamins and minerals that wholegrain products do. Eating gluten-free can cause “deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, fiber, and other nutrients” (Kam 4). They’re also higher in carbohydrates, fat, and sodium and lower in fiber. Many of these vitamins can be replaced with other foods, or with supplement pills. “People can bake a healthier bread at home, one that’s higher in fiber and protein and made with gluten-free grains… such as quinoa, amaranth, or millet” (Kam 6).

Many doctors and nutritionists say that if you are not celiac or gluten intolerant, you have no reason to be on a gluten-free diet. They “are now suggesting that unnecessarily following a gluten-free diet may be doing more harm than good, particularly for those who remove gluten-containing foods from the diet without adequately replacing them with nutritious alternatives” (Natoli 1). Being gluten free is probably one of the largest food fads out there. People think that it’s a miracle diet; if they simply eat something from a box that claims there’s no gluten, they’ll lose weight overnight.

Being gluten-free is more than just weight loss. It’s the stepping-stone to a healthy diet. It saves lives. It causes you to be creative with your food because of a missing ingredient from your food pyramid: wheat. Works Cited Adams, Jefferson. “Willem-Karel Dicke: Pioneer in Gluten-free Diet. ” Celiac. Schar, 14 May 2010. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. . Cederquist, Caroline J. , M. D. “The Potential Health Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet. ” Bistro MD. N. p. , 12 Apr. 2011. Web. 05 Nov. 2012. . Delude, Cathryn. “Celiac Disease Timeline. ” Proto. Massachusetts General Hospital. , Winter 2010. Web.

08 Nov. 2012 . Eggenberger, Nicole. “Miley Cyrus Slammed. ” US Weekly. E! , 10 Apr. 2012. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. . Kam, Katherine. “Going Gluten Free. ” WebMD. N. p. , 06, Feb, 2012. Web. 08 Nov. 2012. . Kelly, Ciaran, MD. “Celiac Disease. ” National Digestive Diseases. NIDDK, Sept. 2008. Web. 25 Nov. 2012. . Lapid, Nancy. “Celiac Disease and the Gluten-Free Diet. ” Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity. About, 13 Dec. 2009. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. . Lapid, Nancy. “Complications Of Untreated Celiac Disease. ” Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity. About, 25 Apr. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. . Lapid, Nancy.

“How Common Is Celiac Disease? ” Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity. About, 10 Nov. 2009. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. . Natoli, Sharon. “Gluten-free Needed for Some, a Fad for Others. ” The Australian. News Limited, 29 Oct. 2012. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. . Parker-Pope, Tara. “Celiac Disease Becoming More Common. ” Well. New York Times, 02 July 2009. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. . Peterson, Jenelle. “Gluten-Free Diet Craze Leads to Weight-loss. ” PRWeb. N. p. , 02 June 2012. Web. 23 Nov. 2012. . Stone, Destiny. “National Celiac Awareness Month and History of Celiac Disease. ” Celiac. N. p. , 29 Apr. 2010. Web. 08 Nov. 2012 .

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