Celiac Disease is an
triggered by the intake
of gluten in genetically
It is estimated that 1% of
the population have Celiac
Disease (or more than 3
million), but the vast majority
Canadian prevalence is
to be the same.
Gluten is the protein that is found in wheat, barley and rye. When someone with Celiac Disease consumes gluten, the immune system responds by attacking the small intestine, which affects the absorption of nutrients.
There are over 300 symptoms associated with the disease ranging from weight loss and constipation to depression and anemia. One of the many symptoms of Celiac Disease is called Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH), which manifests itself as a chronic, itchy skin rash.
Currently, the only known treatment for Celiac Disease is strict adherence to a gluten-free diet for life. Following a gluten-free diet heals existing intestinal damage, prevents further damage, and returns the intestinal barrier (villi) to a healthy state for as long as the diet is followed.
Celiac Disease is diagnosed by an antibody (blood) test, specifically anti-tissue transglutaminase or anti-endomysial antibodies. If an individual’s blood tests are positive and symptoms suggest Celiac Disease, the physician needs to confirm the diagnosis via an endoscopic biopsy of the small intestine.
The terms gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably. Celiac Disease is a genetic auto-immune condition that can be serious if left undiagnosed. Gluten intolerance/sensitivity is an adverse food-induced reaction that does not involve the immune system. The reaction occurs in the digestive tract causing gastrointestinal symptoms and is largely misunderstood. A wheat allergy does involve an immune-response, but that is time-limited and does not involve lasting damage to the body, as is the case with Celiac Disease.
A food allergy (FA) occurs
when the body’s immune
system produces an
antibody (IgE) in response
to the protein contained in
a specific food(s). In a food
allergic person, exposure
to a trigger food (even in
trace amounts) can produce
symptoms ranging from
discomfort (itching, eczema,
stomach upset, headache,
congestion) to life threatening
(swelling of the mouth,
throat or tongue, hives, difficulty
may appear immediately or
may be delayed by
minutes or hours.
In the U.S. (according to the FDA), there are eight foods that account for 90% of all food allergic reactions– wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts (i.e. almond, cashew, walnut), egg, soy, fish and shellfish (i.e. crustaceans such as crab, lobster, shrimp). In Canada, there are eleven common allergens—the eight from the U.S. plus sesame seeds, sulphites (food additives) and mustard (new).
An FA is typically diagnosed by allergy specialists using food elimination diets, skin and/or blood tests (RAST) to identify the specific “trigger foods” that cause an FA reaction. Many children will outgrow their foodrelated allergies; however, an FA can also develop over time, even into adulthood.
While there is limited scientific evidence to date,
anecdotal evidence from parents of children with Autism
Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) points to the potential
benefits some may gain from following a GFCF diet.
Gluten is the protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye and foods derived from these grains; casein is a protein found in milk and other dairy-based products such as cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream. According to one theory, some people with ASDs cannot properly digest gluten and casein; consumption of these proteins causes the formation of substances that act like opiates in their bodies. These opiate-like substances can, in turn, alter the person’s behavior, perceptions and responses to his/ her environment. When gluten and casein are eliminated from the diet, some people experience an improvement in alertness, sensory perception, behavior management and overall digestive health.
A food intolerance (FI) is a food reaction that
is triggered when certain foods are consumed
in varying quantities; while it may cause
discomfort, it is not life-threatening. FI may
cause a negative physiological response (gastrointestinal
distress, headaches, fatigue) but the immune system is not
involved. FI is usually caused by an inability to digest or absorb
certain foods. For example, lactose intolerance occurs in
people who lack an enzyme called lactase that is needed to
digest lactose (the sugar in milk).
FI can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms are varied and may take up to three days to appear. Elimination diets and specialty tests are the most commonly used methods for diagnosis.