Gluten-Free7smRecently, Shelley Case took the time to explain a lot of what was discussed at a very important celiac conference in Chicago. Shelley attended and spoke at the event last fall. If you missed the first installments on the topic, you can read about problems with the blood tests here and an update on biopsy issues here.

Enzyme supplement therapy was discussed and it seems to be a somewhat promising treatment for celiac. Presently, there is no substantial evidence that one could use such a treatment and order a large pepperoni pizza from Dominos. It might end up being more of a cross contamination protection type therapy instead of a magic celiac pill. The same can be said of some other drugs being tested to treat the condition. Many people are hoping for a much more impressive treatment – one that will allow them to consume a “normal” diet again.

The detoxification of wheat was a topic at the conference. Just as wheat was modified to be different than the wheat of our ancestors, some scientists believe that it might be possible for wheat to be redesigned to the point that it would be considered gluten-free. The problem with this idea is that the properties of gluten, what makes it so great in baked goods, would likely also not be present in modified wheat. By the time gluten-free wheat becomes available (if it ever does), food manufacturers will have perfected baking with gluten-free grains. Many smaller companies have unlocked the secret to baking exceptional tasting foods without gluten so it’s only a matter of time before the bug guns in the food manufacturing game do the same.

When gluten should be introduced to infants at risk of developing celiac disease is being studied, but the results of the long term study won’t be ready for quite a while. In the meantime, here is what is believed about the issue presently (that was discussed at the conference).

  • Breastfeeding is likely to reduce the risk of celiac disease and/or to delay its onset and influence the presenting symptoms.
  • Introduction of gluten during breastfeeding reduces the risk of celiac disease and/or significantly delays its onset.
  • Celiac disease children who were not breast-fed at the time of gluten introduction during infancy seem to be more likely to develop typical gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Early (less than 3 months of age) introducing gluten increases the risk of celiac disease.
  • Introduction of “large amounts” of gluten increases the risk of celiac disease.

Shelley reports that “a large multicenter trial in the US is currently being planned aimed at understanding the role of infant nutrition and environmental factors on the development of celiac disease in at risk infants ( those with a family history of celiac disease)”. For more information on this topic, check out the Canadian Celiac Association’s views here.

One of the most exciting things Shelley mentioned is that non celiac gluten sensitivity is finally being looked at by celiac experts. For years many people in the medical community didn’t believe that such a condition even existed. Finally, there is a discussion about it and doctors are looking into how it differs from celiac disease. It is not presently believed that non celiac gluten sensitivity left untreated will result in the same complications of celiac disease, including but not limit to certain cancers. However, the investigation on the issue is just beginning in earnest. Who knows what researchers will find out about the non celiac condition.

It seems clear that strides are being made in the medical community regarding testing, diagnosing and treating celiac disease. They are probably not changing fast enough for a lot of us, but change is slow in any industry. If the general mindset about celiac disease in the medical community changes substantially in the next ten years, it will be a great accomplishment. I routinely hear stories of patients being told quite recently that celiac is extremely rare and affects about 1 in 5000 people. The condition actually affects almost 1 in 100 people so there is a lot of work to be done to re-train untold numbers of misinformed doctors on the realities of celiac disease.

Special thanks to Shelley Case for taking the time to share this most interesting information with me so I could share it with our readers. Shelley’s newest book edition is now available for those in need of learning the many intricacies of the gluten-free diet.