Coeliac Disease On the Rise

Coeliac Disease is a hereditary form of intolerance to a portion of gluten, the protein in many common grains including wheat, oats, barley and rye. A recent study published in the journal ‘Gastroenterology’ in July 2009 showed that the incidence of Coeliac Disease has increased dramatically over the last 50 years.

The study compared blood samples from 9133 adults from Warren Air Force Base, USA between 1948 and 1954 with age and gender-matched controls from two recent samples from Minnesota, USA. The results showed a 4.5 fold and 4 fold increase in prevalance of undiagnosed Coeliac Disease with the two recent samples, respectively, as compared to the air force samples.

The reasons for this huge increase in rates of Coeliac Disease are unclear. What is clear is that diseases of gluten intolerance are increasing in importance, and do not always present as a classic syndrome of diarrhoea, weight loss and abdominal pain.

Although considered somewhat controversial by the medical profession, the experience of many nutritional doctors around the world is that gluten intolerance may play a major role in a number of conditions, even in the absence of true Coeliac Disease. Examples of these conditions include Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, schizophrenia, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

It is recommended to consult a health practitioner before excluding gluten from your diet, as it is more difficult to test for Coeliac Disease once gluten has been excluded from the diet. A simple blood test can be performed to screen for Coeliac Disease, and can be performed by any medical practitioner. It is also important to ensure that we have a balanced diet plan which will meet all essential nutrients before excluding all gluten products.

Examples of non-gluten based grains include rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth. All fruits and vegetables appear to be free of gluten. Wheatgrass also appears to be safe for those with gluten intolerance, although it may be wise to avoid it if you have a severe reaction to wheat products. Further information on the Coeliac Disease can be found at www.glutenfree.org.au..

Reference: Gastroenterology. 2009 Jul;137(1):88-93. Pub Med Abstract

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