Posted by: Kevin G. Parker, D.C.
From: The Tender Foodie
Interview W/ Dr. Alessio Fasano, Part 1: Should Anyone Eat Gluten?
Alessio Fasano, M.D., Medical Director for the Center for Celiac ResearchSince March of this year (2011), I’ve had it on my list to speak to Alessio Fasano, the Medical Director for The University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research. What happened in March? Honest-to-goodness food allergy research happened, that’s what. Scientists now have a better understanding of why it seems like everyone (and his or her brother) “suddenly” has trouble eating wheat, rye, and barley.
Ten years ago, most of us didn’t know what it was. But now “gluten” is a household buzzword. Even if we don’t understand what “gluten” actually means (or even is), we see menus and products that are free of it. I would also wager that every person in the U.S. knows someone who gets sick after eating it.
Gluten is that pesky protein that is unusually rich in the amino acids glutamine and proline. The gluten protein (really, the “gliadin” protein) is found in wheat, with similartrouble-causing proteins found in rye, barley, and triticale.
Because of studies that people like Dr. Fasano and his team have done, we know things we didn’t know before. Things like:
- There are four different kinds of wheat allergies, with four different types of immune responses.
- We also now know that 18 million people (aka everyone and his/her brother) have a newly discovered immune response called “gluten sensitivity.” People with this condition can have up to 100 symptoms, many similar to Celiac Disease. The difference is that Gluten Sensitivity does not involve the immune system attacking the intestinal wall of the patient.
- The number of people with Celiac Disease has quadrupled in the last 50 years.
- Once thought a genetic disease triggered in childhood, recent cases of celiac disease have shown up in people who are in their 70’s and in people who have genetic markers but no genetic history of the disease.
- Celiac Disease is the only autoimmune disease that has a clear trigger(gluten). Therefore, scientists may be able to learn how to better manage other autoimmune diseases, like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis through research on celiac disease.
- Today, 1 in 133 people have celiac disease, a genetically linked, autoimmune response to gluten. That’s more than 2 million people in the U.S., and 1 percent of the global population. However, most do not know it.
I was most privileged to speak with Dr. Fasano about gluten, our bodies’ response(s) to it, allergies, Celiac Disease, and what Dr. Fasano calls “the new kid on the block,” Gluten Sensitivity. We discussed why there are so many issues with gluten and how you can get tested for an immune reaction to it.
I learned a great deal from Dr. Fasano, including the fact that no one can digest gluten. I know, this surprised me, too; so I asked again and got the same answer. No one can digest gluten. Not properly.
Read on, oh seekers of answers.
TF: Why did you do this most recent study on gluten?
It started about two or three years ago after a critical mass of people with various symptoms came to our clinic, and the numbers of these particular people increased exponentially at that time. Though they had symptoms similar to Celiac Disease, they did not have Celiac Disease. We would give them a negative diagnosis for celiac disease, but they kept coming back with the same symptoms. Many had started a gluten-free diet on their own, and the gluten-free diet seemed to be a cure, a miracle. We had reached the conclusion that though this group of people did not have Celiac Disease, there must be something else happening that is gluten related.
TF: I understand that there was some research to build upon, correct? Tell me about the Banana Babies Study. How did Celiac & Gluten Sensitivity research all begin?