The number of people who cannot have any wheat, rye or barley – those suffering from celiac disease – is on the increase. While some nutritionist believe that we are witnessing a fad of gluten-free diets, for more than three million Americans, celiac disease is a serious problem. It is not only that they have to stay away from all the delicious baked goods, but their disease can turn into a number of other health issues. The latest study published in the recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society offers a great hope – a pill that will prevent symptoms of reaction to gluten, in the same way lactase pills prevent digestive problems for people with lactose intolerance.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that disrupts the digestion in the small intestine. After consumng food containing gluten, a protein in rye, wheat and barley, the immune system of the person suffering from the celiac disease starts attacking the small intestine and preventing the absorption of nutrients. If left untreated, celiac disease can develop into other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, neurological conditions, infertility and even cancer.
There are more than three million Americans living with celiac disease and most of them inherited it from the first or second generation relatives.
Common symptoms of celiac disease are diarrhea, abdominal pain, irritability or depression. Not all people have the same symptoms and some have no symptoms at all.
In normal, healthy people, gluten in food is broken into smaller pieces called peptides by the enzymes naturally existing in the stomach. Peptides are harmless for healthy people, but for people with celiac disease they trigger an autoimmune response and characteristic symptoms. Until now, people with celiac disease had no other options but to have strictly gluten-free diet. Scientists believe that a new enzyme that would be introduced into intestines could break down the peptides and prevent the immune reaction.
During the same study, researchers found a naturally occurring enzyme, ideal for breaking down peptides. The enzyme, called KumaMax, is capable of breaking down about 95 percent of peptides in the stomach. The scientists hope that they are close to the development of a pill that would work the same way as lactase for people with lactose intolerance. Taking a pill before eating food with gluten would prevent the reaction by introducing enzyme that would assist digestion of gluten and preventing inflammation caused by it.
Until the pill becomes the reality and is available in your corner store, if you suffer from celiac disease, stick to the gluten-free foods such as beans, rice, corn, potatoes, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and poultry. No breaded nuggets for you.