The Gluten Free Girl - Specializing in Gluten Free Diets
Today, the estimated prevalence of celiac disease around the world is as follows:
3 in 100:United Kingdom
1 in 370:Italy
1 in 122:Northern Ireland
1 in 99:Finland
1 in 133:United States
Once thought rare in for these nationalities the estimates for African-, Hispanic- and Asian-Americans: 1 in 236
Nearly 3 million people have celiac disease and most don't know it and probably never will. Celiac disease is the most common genetic disease of mankind. The statistics show that for every person diagnosed 140 will go undiagnosed.
It is now estimated that up to 18 million people have gluten sensitivity. This condition has less severe intestinal degradation than what is found in celiac disease but can cause the same health problems as found in celiac disease. Scientists have shown that gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are part of a spectrum of gluten-related disorders.
What happens in Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease (CD) is caused by an inflammatory response of the small intestine.  CD is the result of an inappropriateT-cell mediated immune response against ingested gluten. This immune response causes inflammation and damage to the villi in the small intestine where absorption takes place. In CD it is known that both heredity and the immune system play a part. When food containing gluten reaches the small intestine, the immune system begins to attack a substance called gliadin, which is a protein found in the gluten. Those with celiac may experience a number of symptoms related to the inflammation and the toxins released by this reaction, and/or the lack of ability to absorb nutrients from food. Hence, the conditions and symptoms from gluten sensitivity or celiac are vast due to the host of problems resulting from the inflammation, toxins and the lack of absorption of nutrients that can result.
Gluten intolerance is a disease process that can take decades to develop. Determining gluten intolerance as early as possible is the best policy to prevent serious disease. Celiac symptoms seem to appear between the ages of 3-5 and then again between the ages of 30-40.
"Gluten" is the general term for a mixture of many protein fragments (called peptide chains or polypeptides) found in common cereal grains. Gluten is classified in two groups, the prolamins and the glutelins. The most troublesome component of gluten is the prolamin called gliadin.
If we look at the different grains we find that each has its own prolamin. The following list gives the type of prolamin each grain contains, and the percentage of protein the prolamin has in relationship to the entire grain:
·        Wheat - Gliadin - 69%
·        Rye-Secalinin - 30-50%
·        Oats - Avenin - 16%
·        Barley - Hordein - 46-52%
Research suggests that the avenins are not toxic and do not contain gluten. However, do to the similarity of avenins to gliadin 10% of celiacs have the same autoimmune reaction and cannot tolerate oats. Additionally, most celiacs also avoid oats due to contamination issues with gluten where the oats are processed. Now, gluten-free oats are available and can be included as apart of a gluten-free diet.
The most common symptoms of celiac disease (and often found in gluten sensitivity as well) include:
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal distress (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, reflux) 
  • Headaches (including migraines)
  • Infertility
  • Mouth sores 
  • Weight loss/gain 
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Moodiness/depression
  • Amenorrhea/delayed menarche (menstrual cycles) 
  • Bone/joint/muscle pain
  • Dental enamel hypoplasia
  • Short stature
  • Seizures 
  • Tingling numbness in the legs
Symptoms also include:
  • Abnormal liver test
  • Addison's disease
  • Alopecia
  • Anemia
  • Ataxia
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Crohn's disease
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis 
  • Down syndrome
  • Epilepsy
  • Family history of celiac disease
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism
  • Total IgA deficiency
  • Insulin-dependent diabetes (type 1)
  • Infertility/spontaneous abortions/low birth-weight babies
  • Iron deficiency
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Malnutrition
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Non Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteomalacia
  • Pancreatic disorders
  • Pathologic fractures
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Recurrent stomatisits
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Scherosing cholangitis
  • Sjogren syndrome
  • Systemic lupus
  • Turner syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Vitiligo
So Why Can’t All these Populations Handle Gluten?
Dr. Kenneth Fine from Enterolabs states that, first, it must be understood that the gluten-containing grains we eat today are actually domesticated and now genetically hybridized versions of what originally were wild grasses endemic to the Tigris-Euphrates river basin. Presumably, due to pressures from shortages of other foods, or ingenuity of ancient peoples, these grasses became a source of food and calories. Learning how to cultivate and farm these and other plants alleviated the pressures of the hunting/gathering lifestyle, paving the way for more abundant and readily available food, which in turn, paved the way for the more stable and populated Agrarian societies that followed. It is believed and seems sensible, that this shift to agriculture-based societies was responsible for the flourishing (note the word flour in flourishing) civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt that followed. Thus, wheat, barley, rye, and oats are genetic derivatives of wild grass, and therefore pose the possibility that eating a wild plant may possess some toxicity.
Along those lines according to substantial research done by Dr. Loren Cordain, PhD, author of The Paleo Diet, 10,000 years ago cereal grains were introduced into the diet as a result of the agricultural revolution. Until that time, for 2 million years, we were hunter gatherers. The foods that agriculture brought us –cereals, dairy products, fatty meats, salted foods, and refined sugars and oils- proved disastrous for our Paleolithic bodies. It all started in the Middle East about 10,000 years ago, when people started to sow and harvest wild wheat seeds. Studies of the bones and teeth early farmers revealed that they had more infectious diseases, more childhood mortality, shorter life spans, more osteoporosis, rickets, and other bone mineral density disorders than their ancestors thanks to the cereal based diet. They were plagued with vitamin and mineral deficiencies and developed cavities in their teeth. Added to that just 200 years ago the Industrial Revolution was the other biggest health problem of our history, when steam powered mills made refined white flours and sugars commonly available and cheap to the masses. We were able to mill and process grains for consumption and eat them in a larger quantities than we had ever done in the past.As well summarized by Jack Challem, The Nutrition Reporter,
“Look at in another way, 100,000 generations of people were hunter-gatherers, 500 generations have depended on agriculture, and only 10 generations have lived since the start of the industrial age, and only two generations have grown up with highly processed fast foods.This short period of time in the course of man’s existence that grains have been around has proven that many of us are not physiologically able to tolerate gluten."
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