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Autoimmune Disease, In the News, Nutrition

A call for a new way to classify gluten-related disorders

After a lifelong battle with eczema, I went gluten-free about a year ago on the suggestion of a nutritionist – and my skin condition immediately cleared up. So I was interested to read a Wall Street Journal article on gluten and a panel of experts’ work to develop a new classification system for gluten-related disorders. Melinda Beck writes:

The proposal defines a spectrum of illnesses based on the kind of immune defenses people mount to gluten, from wheat allergies to autoimmune responses, such as celiac disease, in which the body mistakenly attacks its own tissue.

The experts also propose a third category for “gluten sensitivity,” in which patients report the same symptoms as celiac disease but test negative for telltale antibodies. Some doctors have dismissed such complaints as imaginary, or fueled by the boom in gluten-free foods.

“Confusion about gluten sensitivity has been rampant,” says Alessio Fasano, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research and a co-author of the proposal, published this week in the journal BMC Medicine. “That prompted a few of us to say, ‘Let’s put some facts on the table to assess what’s known and what’s not known.’”

As noted in the article, the American Gastroenterological Association has stated that research on how many people suffer from gluten sensitivity, and to what degree, is needed before official guidelines can be devised.

Previously: Stanford study shows lack of criteria for diagnosing food allergies, Experts debate the “squishy science” of food allergies and Jennifer Schneider Chafen discusses food allergy research on Science Friday
Photo by Robyn Lee

2 Responses to “ A call for a new way to classify gluten-related disorders ”

  1. Jerry White Says:

    The Wall Street Journal carried this report of a new proposed classification of the various forms of gluten sensitivity: New Guide to Who Really ShouldnÂ’t Eat Gluten
    This represents progress. Progress in understanding of wheat-related illnesses, as well as progress in spreading the word that there is a lot more to wheat-intolerance than celiac disease. But, as I mention in the letter, it falls desperately short on several crucial issues.
    Ms. Beck–
    Thank you for writing the wonderful article on gluten sensitivity.
    IÂ’d like to bring several issues to your attention, as they are often neglected
    in discussions of “gluten sensitivity”:
    1) The gliadin protein of wheat has been modified by geneticists through their
    work to increase yield. This work, performed mostly in the 1970s, yielded a form
    of gliadin that is several amino acids different, but increased the
    appetite-stimulating properties of wheat. Modern wheat, a high-yield, semi-dwarf
    strain (not the 4 1/2-foot tall “amber waves of grain” everyone thinks of) is
    now, in effect, an appetite-stimulant that increases calorie intake 400 calories
    per day. This form of gliadin is also the likely explanation for the surge in
    behavioral struggles in children with autism and ADHD.
    2) The amylopectin A of wheat is the underlying explanation for why two slices
    of whole wheat bread raise blood sugar higher than 6 teaspoons of table sugar or
    many candy bars. It is unique and highly digestible by the enzyme amylase.
    Incredibly, the high glycemic index of whole wheat is simply ignored, despite
    being listed at the top of all tables of glycemic index.
    3) The lectins of wheat may underlie the increase in multiple autoimmune and
    inflammatory diseases in Americans, especially rheumatoid arthritis and
    inflammatory bowel diseases (ulcerative colitis, CrohnÂ’s).
    In other words, if someone is not gluten-sensitive, they may still remain
    sensitive to the many non-gluten aspects of modern high-yield semi-dwarf wheat,
    such as appetite-stimulation and mental “fog,” joint pains in the hands, leg
    edema, or the many rashes and skin disorders. This represents one of the most
    important examples of the widespread unintended effects of modern agricultural
    genetics and agribusiness.
    William Davis, MD
    Author: Wheat Belly: Lose the wheat, lose the weight and find your path back to health

  2. Lori-Lynne Says:

    Thank you for the terrific article. My “gluten sensitivity” is in direct relation to my Italian heritage and diagnosis of Genetically inherited Thalassemia (based upon my heritage).

    The Thalassemia variant is very common among celiacs and gluten sensitives. I am concerned that this ‘gluten-free” dietary restriction is being touted as a ‘dietary choice”, when for me, it is a ‘dietary necessity’. Thanks again!

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