Friday, May 23, 2008

Celiac Disease & Women

Celiac disease affects about twice as many women as men, and in the United States, it affects two million people or about one in 133 people.

Celiac statistics indicate that under 5% of people suffering from celiac disease have been diagnosed, which means many are suffering from undiagnosed problems with gluten in their diets. According to the Celiac Sprue Association:

"Celiac disease (CD) is a genetic disorder. In people with CD, eating certain types of protein, called gluten, sets off an autoimmune response that causes damage to the small intestine. This, in turn, causes the small intestine to lose its ability to absorb the nutrients found in food, leading to malnutrition and a variety of other complications. The offending protein, gluten, is found in wheat, barley, rye, and to a lesser extent, oats. Related proteins are found in triticale, spelt, kamut."

I am sensitive to gluten, probably a celiac case waiting to happen, as research suggests that the genetic predisposition must also be "triggered" (by pregnancy, surgery, stress, viruses or bacteria weakening the immune system, or increasing gluten content in the diet), and an ongoing ingestion of gluten in the diet.

Dr. Rodier talks a lot about genes and how even with genetic predispositions, genes can either be "turned on" (activated) or "tuned off" (deactivated), and that diet has a lot to do with whether problematic genetics get expressed or not.

What's interesting to me is why celiac disease shows up in twice the number of women than men. Is it because women are more likely to eat gluten products, thus turning on genes? Or because of pregnancy acting as a stress that turns on existing genes?

Interestingly, celiac disease has been potentially associated with increased problems with both infertility and miscarriages. Celiac disease occurs in 4-8% of women with unexplained infertility and is also linked to osteoporosis where there are no signs of vitamin D deficiency or hypocalcemia.

Regardless, celiac is a condition that merits better awareness and thus better diagnosis, as the path to better health is simple if not so easy (dietary change to eliminate gluten).

No comments: