Study Finds Enzyme to Control Celiac Disease (Gluten Intolerance)

In an effort to find a safe and effective therapy to treat the widespread disease Celiac Sprue, Stanford chemist and engineer Chaitan Khosla founded the Celiac Sprue Research Foundation, a non-profit public charity. The Foundation has been established to help improve the lives of the approximately 1 in 200 people afflicted with Celiac Sprue by promoting research and development, and by enhancing awareness of the disease among scientists, clinicians, the pharmaceutical industry, food product manufacturers and the general public.

Dr. Khosla's latest research, published in Science, reveals the possibility for enzyme therapy as a way to treat the widespread disease, Celiac Sprue, caused by a toxic reaction to gluten that produces malabsorption of foods and vitamins.

The high frequency of Celiac Sprue is not generally appreciated by physicians in the Untied States, and patients often suffer for many years before the diagnosis is made. Then the requirement for a strict lifelong diet devoid of wheat and most grains becomes a burden for the patient and their families.

Gluten Is Toxic For Celiac Sprue Patients

Gluten is one of the most prevalent substances in foods, medicines and other consumer products, yet for approximately 1 in 30 individuals around the world who are affected by gluten intolerance, even an occasional encounter with gluten may make them ill. And the long-term implications of the untreated disease, which include a substantially enhanced risk of malignancies (both cancer and lymphoma) of the small intestine and osteoporosis, are far more serious than the disease itself.

What is Celiac Sprue?

Celiac Sprue (a.k.a. celiac disease, coeliac disease, or gluten intolerance) is an hereditary disorder characterized by a sensitivity to the toxic effects of gluten in the diet, leading to abnormal small-intestinal structure, malabsorption, and intolerance to gluten, a component of nutritionally important proteins found in common dietary food grains such as wheat, rye and barley.

The disease commonly presents in early childhood with severe symptoms including chronic diarrhea, abdominal distension, and failure to thrive. The general condition of these children is severely impaired. In many patients, symptoms may not develop until later in life when the disease presents with fatigue, diarrhea, and weight loss due to malabsorption of nutrients and vitamins, anemia and neurological symptoms.

This is a lifelong disease, and if untreated, patients have a substantially enhanced risk for the development of complications such as infertility, osteoporosis, intestinal cancer and lymphoma. There is no therapeutic option available to Celiac Sprue patients, the only treatment being a lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet.

How Common Is Celiac Sprue?

Although the disease was considered uncommon until recently, the American Gastroenterological Association's most recent technical review on Celiac Sprue (Gastroenterology 120, 1526-1540, 2001 Please Note that this Link goes to the Full Text of this Landmark Article) summarizes the results of several independent studies suggesting that the prevalence of the disease may be as high as 1 in 200 people in most parts of the world. Like other immune disorders such as Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, both genetic and environmental factors play a role in the onset of Celiac Sprue.

Latest Research on Celiac Sprue

They have discovered that a relatively short fragment of the gluten protein is exceptionally toxic to Celiac Sprue patients. This gluten fragment is unusually resistant to breakdown by digestive enzymes in the intestine, where it remains intact to have a destructive effect on the intestinal lining. Using this information, they identified a bacterial enzyme (a peptidase) that can rapidly degrade this and other related toxic fragments from gluten.

Unfortunately it will take several years of clinical trials before this enzyme comes to market.

Science September 27, 2002;297(5590):2275-9

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Gluten toxicity is relatively unknown problem in medicine. As this article was reviewed in the media, many stories had the frequency of gluten intolerance at one in 5,000. This is terribly dated, but this statistic is commonly used in the media.

As I said two years ago: Most physicians don’t realize how common it is for people to have gluten intolerance. Traditional diagnostic methods in recent studies show as many as 1 in 33 in the US have this disease. This is a far cry from 1 in 5000!

Due to the fact that celiac disease was considered rare in this country, it often went undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome or lactose intolerance. My experience is that the true incidence is probably much higher still, perhaps on the order of 1 in 10 people. The bulk of us however, do NOT benefit from foods with wheat and gluten.

This is one of the primary reasons why people get sick in this country. It is amazing how many people's chronic health complaints clear up once they stop eating wheat. Some clinicians believe that no one can digest the protein in wheat called gliaden.

Our body attempts to break this protein down by attaching an enzyme to it. This gliaden enzyme complex in a high percentage of people actually stimulates an autoimmune reaction that can cause the full blown syndrome of celiac disease, or more commonly sub-clinical celiac disease which is generally characterized by a variety of chronic health complaints, most of which are intestinal.

However, I have seen many rashes disappear within days, once gluten was stopped.

This new research is exciting, but one needs to know it is nothing more than a band aid and will not reverse the need to avoid gluten overall. Of course traditional medicine will view this as a "cure" because they’ve found a pill solution.

However, we know better.

Related Articles:

The Prevalence of Celiac Disease in At-Risk Groups of Children in
the United States

Celiac Disease: Fertility and Pregnancy

Celiac Disease and Indigestion

Prevalence Of Celiac Disease Increased In Cardiomyopathy

Avoiding Wheat and Gluten May Reverse Liver Failure and Hepatitis

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