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GlutenCeliac Disease

The ABC’S of Health

By Dr. Jo Gjelsten

“It Takes A Villi”


Save the villi, someone once said.  I think it was me, just now.  What are villi and why do we want to save them?  Villi are little finger- like projections of the lining of your intestines that increase the surface area so you can absorb more nutrients from food. They are damaged, and or, destroyed, heaven forbid, if your body can’t digest gluten Gladis. This damage is called Celiac Disease, from the word koelia which means abdomen in Greek, and named by a physician who couldn’t spell in English in the first century A.D, so he sounded it out, and everyone thought he was talking about a bear.

For our understanding of this subject we begin at the beginning, where most things begin, many times if not all the time, with the observation of the fact that kids in the Netherlands who stopped eating bread during WWII because of shortages, stopped dying (dying???!!!) of celiac disease..the incidence of which went from 35% of them to zero per cent of them.  Yes, this is that serious.

Why this fact didn’t catch on as really big news is a mystery to me. In fact most people, including many “Medical Folk”, and me before I found out, believe that Celiac Disease is a dysfunction of your intestines brought about by gluten sensitivity/digestion problem, which it is, so diarrhea, bloating, errts, pwuths  pwewths, toots, borborigmis, (a real word), and other intestinal music, (I hear the sound of music) sounds like Celiac and without all that, it doesn’t even show up on their radar screen Spock.

Is that all there is, Peggy? No, no, Nanette!  What else might it look like then Dr. Jo? The list is as long as your arm, because without villi we don’t absorb what we need to, for instance, stay alive.

 We start with anemia because iron doesn’t get absorbed.  If you’ve had anemia for a while and no one can find out why, get the RIGHT testing.  Calcium may not get absorbed as much, resulting in osteoporosis, along with anemia.

Some folks with undiagnosed celiac have neurological problems like mental illness, epilepsy, seizures, dementia, and peripheral neuropathy (49%).  But wait, there’s more! How about headaches (28%)! And depression due to decreased levels of tryptophan, serotonin and dopamine can be from untreated celiac!

Endocrine problems like thyroiditis (Grave’s, Hashimoto’s) are often associated with celiac, and “abnormal liver enzymes (non-alcoholic liver disease), are common in both thyroid disorders and subclinical celiac disease.” Add to that list, biliary (gall bladder/liver) cirrhosis, and autoimmune hepatitis. Not fun.

Diabetes type 1?  Moms, you need to know that kids who are fed gluten before six months of age , especially in the first three months, “yields a four-fold risk of developing islet cell (pancreatic) auto-antibodies (and potentially subsequent diabetes) than exclusive breast feeding.  What else? Short stature if  kids are not absorbing vitamins and minerals.  Folate deficiency is especially linked to this disease, and can cause a whole host of problems. And think about the article I did about autism and its link to digestive disturbances? Autism is now a gluten-associated disease, as is fibromyalgia. 

Fibromyalgia. Don’t get me started says Dr. Jo. This is a disease that is, in my opinion, made up by those who don’t know what to do for tired and sore mostly women, so they put you on an anti-depressant so you’ll go away happy. But it could just be a reaction to gluten, or an undiagnosed infection, or undiagnosed thyroid problems, or all three.

 So autoimmune is the operative word here, when it comes to gluten/celiac. Problems like RA (rheumatoid arthritis) and other autoimmune conditions which may be linked to gluten are Lupus and Sjogren’s Disease .  Sjogrens, which results in dry eyes and arthritis, is seen mostly in older Scandinavians which accounts for its vowel-impaired name, like Gjelsten, a personal favorite of mine. For a country with 4 or 5 extra vowels, aah, auw, euhw, “ish” sounds, for instance, Norwegians do use them sparingly.

Back to Celiac. What to do? Get tested. Your levels of antibodies to yourself, called auto-antibodies, become high when your immune system responds to what it thinks is a threat, and that would be you, because the immune system gets the wrong message from undigested complexes which is too complex to go into. The tests are lots of acronyms for big words Doc. They are:  tTGA, EMA, IgA, and AGA . “AGA  should not be used alone to diagnose”. There are combinations of these which constitute a diagnosis, so just because you have a negative test that doesn’t mean you don’t have the disease. While an intestinal biopsy is the gold standard for confirmation of the diagnosis, it is now also being diagnosed from blood tests, and thought by some experts to miss some submicroscopic problems. If you have one of these blood tests, you have to be eating gluten at the time of the testing to show any antibody activity. There are also stool sample tests where you don’t have to be on gluten for it to show up.  Do this with professional help. It must be monitored. There are also genetic tests that look for DQ markers DQ2/DQ8, and others. DQ, as in Dairy Queen, but not as much fun.

 What not to eat, and what-not   Not to be a fly in the ointment, but if you have celiac this is very serious business and you must stop eating all of the following real, and not so real but I couldn’t help myself, stuff:  Look at labels and get educated about soups, soy sauces, lo-fat, no-fat,  wo-fat, hydrolyzed veggie protein, texturized veggie protein, natural flavors, some unnatural flavors, some alcohol, some vinegar, some pharmaceuticals (oy vey) some candies, sometimes I feel like a nut, cold cuts, wheat, barley, rye, kamut, caput, oat, spelt, slept, and schlepped. And more. Ok, read the labels Mabel because you can’t do this half way and get results. Your life may depend upon it so don’t be lazy. If you’ve been gluten-free, , you may or may not know it by symptoms. You can be relatively symptom free and still have damage being done, so a blood monitoring is very important if you have celiac. The diagnosis can turn your life around if you really stick to the diet, and the diet isn’t impossible especially today. There are foods all over Rockland County now that are gluten free.

And you don’t have to look far for a gluten free treat. There is the Little Bake Shop in Valley Cottage, “Your source for gluten-free baked goods”, or you might want to try my current favorite food stop, a FABULOUS organic healthy gem of a roadside stand, the PALISADES MARKET on 9W.  They even have a little walk-up stand serving “Janes” Ice Cream. Thanks Jane.  Back to gluten before we go glutton. We have to make sure your villi are viable Verna. Get tested. More information on my website.  www.godrjo.com Copyright May  2010. 


NOTE: Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice. It is informational in purpose only and taken from numerous readily available articles written by physicians and researchers. For medical advice consult with an informed physician.DISCLAIMER 

The products and claims made about specific products on our site have not been evaluated by any regulatory health authority and are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. The information provided on our site is for informational purposes only. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any or stopping any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem.

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August 11, 2016
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Joanne Gjelsten

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