The information at the end of this article relates to the current known physiology of how people ‘acquire’ the celiac disease (CD). The two sources clearly indicate that while specialists know that gluten causes the disease and the effects of the disease, there is no consensus on WHY celiac diseases exists in the first place.
One of the best speculation that I have found is from a book called The Gluten Connection by Dr Shari Lieberman. While this book is a fantastic source of technical medical information it also bravely attempts to uncover the origins of the disease. Although the statistics are often US based, they translate well to other countries. The book states that: “In general populations of Western Europe CD ranges from 0.5 to 1.26%. A 2001 report showed that in the UK the rate of CD was 1 in 112 people, in Finland 1 in 130, in Italy 1 in 184 and the Sahara had 1 in 70!”
Dr Shari talks of a time before celiac disease (symptoms of) seemed to exist. A time when meat, vegetables and grain were predominantly free from man-made toxins, preservatives and the like. She discusses how many of our foods have been modified with the result that while the general population has a CD rate of 1%, that up to 29% may be gluten sensitive . The genetic predisposition of the disease is such that having a first degree relative with CD increases your odds of having CD to 1 out of 22, and a second degree relative to 1 in 39.
Essentially it is suggested that while the human genome has remained unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years, the Industrial Revolution massively accelerated the amount of grain in our diet (as opposed to the traditional carbohydrate load from nuts and berries). Of course this was necessary to feed to rapidly increasing population that were gathering in high density cities, but we did not evolve as swiftly to cope with the gluten overload.
Add to the change in lifestyle the change in grain ‘roller milling’ process (invented in 1873) which changed our diet from whole grains to refined flour, add the convenience of packaged food with increased grains products, the rise of cereal breakfasts and our overload was well under way. Consider that even since 1967 the US per capita gluten grains consumption has increased from 115 pounds to 139 pounds. “Gluten is used in the manufacturing of virtually all boxed, packaged and canned processed foods to created textures that are more palatable to our taste buds, or it is used as binders, thickeners, and coatings. It is even used as glue on envelopes and stamps.” So maybe there is more to the George Costanza story than meets the eye … but I digress.
WHAT you really need to think about is the next paragraph:
” … bioengineers continually work to improve gluten and make it a larger and more potent part of edible grains. It is estimated that today’s wheat contains nearly 90 percent more gluten than wheat did from a century ago!”
In my general diet readings I have seen how many experts believe the increased use of processed food components such as refined sugars and even the overuse of salt has cause many health issues. Imagine if over refined grains were removed from the majority of manufactured foods and wild seed banks were used to grow grains with their original levels of gluten. Imagine if wholemeal flours were used more often and a non toxic replacement for gluten (with glutens binding properties) was found and used in our foods? Would we then see a fall in CD rates amongst our youth?
The point is that conspiracy theories aside, large food corporations are profit driven and look for the most cost effective solution. This is often at the expense of long term health effects, assuming they have this knowledge in the first place. If you are reading this and you have celiac disease, it probably means that you were predisposed towards it, have acquired it and can’t go back to eating any form of gluten. But at least now maybe you have one possible view as to how and why you got it. While the conclusions drawn above are completely speculative it makes intuitive sense that too much of anything, particularly things you don’t know you are ingesting, can be a bad thing. Natural is almost always better and if you have CD but your child doesn’t have it yet, perhaps you could consider letting them eat low gluten grains rather than ‘eating just anything or abstaining completely’. Its worth a try?
SCIENTIFIC CAUSES OF CD – SOURCE 1 “The exact cause of celiac disease is not known; however, inheriting or developing certain irregular genes increases your susceptibility. You are more likely to have these abnormal genes and develop celiac disease if you have a first-degree relative (mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter) with the condition. In some genetically predisposed people, environmental factors, such as bacteria, viruses, or surgery, may cause changes in the small intestine; then, eating gluten can trigger an irregular immune system response, resulting in celiac disease.”
SCIENTIFIC CAUSES OF CD – SOURCE 2 “In celiac disease, an intramucosal enzyme defect produces an inability to digest gluten. Resulting tissue toxicity produces rapid cell turnover, increases epithelial lymphocytes, and damages surface epithelium of the small bowel. Celiac disease affects 1 of every 133 people in the United States and results from environmental factors and a genetic predisposition, but the exact mechanism is unknown. A strong association exists between the disease and two human leukocyte antigen haplotypes, DR3 and DQw2. It may also be autoimmune in nature. It affects twice as many females as males and occurs more commonly among relatives, especially siblings. This disease primarily affects whites and those of European ancestry.”