Gluten-Free Diets – What is Gluten?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 8,300
    Celiac expert Dr. Alessio Fasano defines gluten and describes the spectrum of gluten intolerance. Dr. Fasano also describes the symptoms and treatment of celiac disease.

    Dr. Alessio Fasano: Hi! I am Dr. Alessio Fasano, Pediatrician Director of the Center for Celiac Research at University of Maryland School of Medicine.

    Today, in Partnership with General Mills, we are talking about how to eat gluten-free healthfully. But, first of all, let's define what is Gluten.

    Gluten is the most abundant protein in several grains including wheat, rye and barley and is the authentic proteins that make people genetically predisposed with Celiac disease sick.

    What is Celiac disease?

    Nowadays, Celiac disease is defined an autoimmune disease, therefore a recipe with two ingredients, genes that you are born with and then an environmental trigger that leads to Autoimmune Insults. It's unique because it's the only one for which the environmental trigger is known and it's gluten.

    However, we need to be aware there are other forms of gluten reactions. There is an entire gluten spectrum disorders, including urology that affects roughly 300,000 people in United States. Celiac disease that affects 1% of 3 million people, and then gluten sensitivity that is by far the most frequent form of gluten reaction. It affects as many as 20 million people or 70% of the general population.

    The symptoms are common among the three conditions. The most frequent being gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, weight-loss, failure to thrive and other unusual but still GI symptoms like constipation and vomiting.

    However, there is no good system in the body that is spared by this condition and therefore people can be affected by anemia, chronic fatigue, osteoporosis, joint pain, infertility, miscarriages, neurological symptoms, behavioral changes and so on.

    How is the disease diagnosed?

    There is a screen test that is very accurate that needs to be followed by confirmation by an intestinal biopsy showing the damage. If the diagnose is not made on time there is a risk of comorbidities like development of Autoimmune diseases or conditions that can now be repaired like Short Stature and Osteoporosis.

    The treat to those celiac disease is based on the stopping this interplay between genes and environments. Of course genes cannot be eliminated so the cornerstone is the elimination of gluten from the diet for life at an 100%.

    Easy to say very difficult to implement unless we call for action in which healthcare professionals, dietitians, and nutrition in industry will work together to provide palatable and cost-effective gluten-free products for people suffering from Celiac disease and other forms of gluten reaction.