Taking a pill to allow eating gluten is a very appealing idea to people suffering from Celiac disease. Trying to maintain a gluten free diet for life, especially while traveling or having an active social life is nearly impossible. However, for those with Celiac disease, gluten exposure can cause serious symptoms and increase the risk of numerous cancers, especially lymphoma. It is unlikely a pill will become available in the very near future that would allow an unrestricted diet. However, in the February 2007 issue of the journal Gut, Dr. Cerf-Bensussan et al. from France, review the latest research that has progressed to the early stages of developing a gluten digestive enzyme pill. Oral proteases, enzymes that break down proteins, are being developed that target the toxic wheat gluten protein product gliadin that causes Celiac disease.
A pill combining two or more of these digestive enzymes may allow people with Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity to eat gluten occasionally during social events or during travel as well as protect against the exposure to hidden sources of gluten. After my wife and I got accidentally “ glutened” during a trip to visit family I was very interested to review this update. I experienced more minor nuisances from the gluten exposure such as acne like skin break outs, joint stiffness, muscle aches, impaired concentration and moderate fatigue. However, my wife who has Celiac disease and is extremely sensitive to hidden gluten, suffered from two days of incapacitating fatigue and a flare of neurological symptoms. While traveling back from our trip I had to assist her to walk because she developed such acute and profound muscle weakness, incoordination and balance difficulties, not to mention the inability to think or speak clearly for the past 24-48 hours.
To those unfamiliar with the toxic effects of gluten on the neurological system, including most of my physician colleagues (even neurologists and gastroenterologists here in the U.S.) it is hard to believe that getting exposed to minute amounts of wheat, flour or gluten can cause these profound symptoms. However, for those of us who have experienced this first hand as a sufferer of Celiac disease, family member of those affected by gluten sensitivity or in my case a doctor who specializes in Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, who also is gluten sensitive and married to a Celiac, it is not surprising. Instead it can be maddening to see the lack of awareness, sensitivity and general disbelief of the medical establishment to the toxic effects of gluten on the body. The resistance to the idea that eating wheat may not be healthy is great in the U.S. Sadly it has taken to death of hundreds of cats and dogs to raise the public awareness to wheat gluten, though the cause of the illness in those pets appears to be due to the contaminant melamine. However, I would advise people to remain open to the possibility the gluten may have also played a role. This is based on my experience with humans suffering serious illness due to gluten and the research I have found on toxicity of gluten in animals.
A heightened awareness to the potential dangers of gluten is coming from all the recent media attention to the pet food contamination. In the meantime, those of us with gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease can hope for a pill in the near future that can be taken to break down toxic gluten before ill effects develop. I will follow up this posting with more details but I wanted to share our story and provide the article reference to those of you following along with my journey of a “healthy gut, healthy life”. Upon return from being out of town I found the Food Doc Twinkie Experiment revealed 26 days has still failed to result in any mold or visible deterioration. Stay tuned for more exciting news on Celiac disease, eosinophilic esophagitis, IBS, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut, probiotics and the links to food and microorganisms. I have more than a dozen articles to share with you.
the Food Doc, Dr. Scot Lewey.
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Cer-Bensussan N. et al. "Oral proteases: a new approach to managing coeliac disease" Gut 2007; 56:157-160.