New Studies Shine A Light On Celiac Disease Treatment
Many of us know at least one person who lives a gluten-free lifestyle, and while sometimes the motivation to do so is for general health purposes, many other individuals actually have to avoid gluten due to celiac disease in order to live a relatively normal life. Those with celiac disease often find that even just a little bit of gluten in their diet can cause a variety of uncomfortable and downright miserable symptoms. (1)
But what causes celiac disease and how can it be treated? Do your friends who love bread have to go without it for the rest of their lives? Thankfully, new research is proving that other options might be on the table. The task of completely curing celiac disease, and any other autoimmune disorders that creep in once the gate has been opened, is exciting and promising, yet further studies will need to occur before anything can be promoted as a mainstream cure.
First, let’s understand how celiac disease works, what the current treatments entail, and what’s on the horizon for future medical advancements.
Celiac Disease: The Basics
In a nutshell, individuals affected by celiac disease cannot process gluten, the protein found in barley, rye, and wheat, and experience a range of symptoms that can be difficult to deal with on a regular basis. What are often seen as common digestive problems for some, like bloating, gas, or diarrhea, these issues occur often and in extreme ways for those with celiac disease.
One of the main problems with celiac disease specifically is that even if a person is willing to put up with more difficult symptoms like anemia, fatigue, or joint pain, the gluten they ingest is actually causing damage to their intestinal system as well. (2) The cause of celiac disease is unknown, although it can be hereditary, and is usually initially triggered by events like childbirth, surgery, or extreme emotional stress. Once the body first recognizes gluten as the enemy, celiac disease is present.
Since it’s an autoimmune condition where the body attacks the gluten, the elements of the small intestine that aid in absorbing nutrients become damaged in the process. This is what ultimately leads to poor health and the potential for other autoimmune diseases to come into play. (3) In particular, there tends to be a common link between those with celiac disease and thyroid problems
Current Treatment For The Condition
At the moment, those with celiac disease have been relying on one way to manage their symptoms – eating a gluten-free diet. Despite several testing procedures that can try to pinpoint if an individual is affected by the condition, ultimately there is no hard and fast way to diagnose someone with celiac disease. (4)
This leaves people in the position of assuming they have the condition and embarking upon an elimination diet to rule out any inflammatory foods to see if they can associate their symptoms with gluten itself. While this kind of diet can be manageable for a period of time, the thought of being gluten-free for the rest of one’s life is difficult. A nutrient-dense diet, including a lot of fruit, vegetables, and gluten-free grains can provide optimum health, yet can still be tough to maintain. (5)
Breakthroughs In Research
With advancements in healthcare coming in leaps and bounds lately, scientists are optimistic that individuals with celiac disease can benefit from various treatments. In 2016, a team at Boston University’s Henry M. Golden School of Dental Medicine came upon an interesting discovery – the bacteria in one’s mouth, called Rothia bacteria, contains an enzyme that works to break down gluten before it reaches the intestines. (6)
This enzyme is in the same classification as Bacillus enzymes, which are found in a Japanese fermented food called natto. While it’s not clear yet how much natto would need to be ingested to break down gluten before reaching the intestines, it’s an interesting revelation that leads to more research and questions about how this food can help.
On a bit more of a squeamish note, immunologists in Australia are experimenting with parasites in an effort to help manage those affected by celiac disease. (7) Their study used 12 individuals who were gluten intolerant and infected them with hookworms. Over the course of one year, they had each patient eat spaghetti incrementally, and noted that as the year went on, they were able to consume more and more of the gluten-rich food without any of their usual symptoms.
Four of the participants ended up terminating their involvement before the end of the study due to reasons not related to their condition, and of the 8 remaining individuals, all of them saw amazing success. After one year of having hookworms in their system, they could eat the equivalent of a medium-sized bowl of spaghetti with no negative symptoms. They were so pleased that all 8 of them chose to keep the parasites in their system on a permanent basis!
More Studies Down Under
Australia seems to be tackling celiac disease head-on as of late, with another interesting development that’s aimed at helping those with the condition. Scientist Dr. Bob Anderson has created a vaccine named Nexvax2 which attempts to desensitize the body from several peptides contained in gluten that trigger the body’s immune response. (8)
Initial trials included a test group of 150 people and are determining appropriate dosage sizes and frequencies for the vaccine to be completely effective. Currently, the second phase of trials is being conducted, but as we know all too well, it could take a bit of time before the vaccine is approved by the FDA.
Where Does This Leave Us?
If you’re affected by celiac disease, the initiatives to find ways to help treat the condition probably sound quite exciting. While the research is ongoing and shows promise in all three types of studies, it’s important to remember that it takes time before these treatments will become mainstream.
Similarly to other types of medications, supplements, or even diet and lifestyle changes, the same approach doesn’t work for every single person. Your next-door neighbor might benefit from hookworms in their body and your best friend might opt for a vaccine, all the while the only thing that’s worked for you is to maintain a gluten-free diet for the rest of your life.
Ultimately until more conclusive studies are performed, treating celiac disease and managing your symptoms is best achieved by avoiding foods that contain gluten. Not only does this mean reading food labels and staying away from obvious sources of gluten, but you will need to make sure your kitchen items and pantry are areas where cross-contamination is kept to a minimum. (9)
Stay on the lookout for advances in this technology and take the time to decide if one of these treatments is the right choice for you. Everyone with celiac disease will need to find the best solution that meets their needs and fits within their lifestyle. However, the idea that potentially curing yourself of celiac disease, and in turn reducing other autoimmune issues related to your pituitary gland or even adrenal issues that affect your liver, is quite exciting and gives us reason to be hopeful about what’s on the horizon.
If you’re ready to get help with your health, contact us at the Burlison Clinic today to schedule an appointment.
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