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When a long-suffering patient goes into to see the doctor with a question about the possibility of gluten-sensitivity disease the doctor probably will immediately start looking for symptoms of a condition called celiac disease. This condition is also known as celiac sprue and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Celiac disease is a particularly nasty condition.
In people who have celiac disease, the lining of the gut is hypersensitive to a protein in gluten known as gliadin. Gluten consists of a number of proteins that can be activated to give bread dough its "stretch," gliadin actually plays a role in maintaining enzymes for the growth of yeast.
First, aberrant enzymes process gliadin into a "stripped" protein with a potent, negative electrical charge. This in effect ensures that gliadin "sticks" to the lining of the gut.
Then the immune system recruits T cells to attack the gliadin as if it were a deadly infection. In the process of destroying gliadin, the T cells also destroy the intestinal lining. The immediate result is intense pain. The gut cannot absorb nutrients, but because it becomes "leaky," it admits all kinds of undigested proteins and carbohydrates from food that cause havoc of their own elsewhere in the body.
Eating a bacon bit or a few drops of soy sauce made with wheat is enough to make celiac sufferers miserable. Eating a slice of bread, or a loaf of bread, can result in agony.
If you have celiac disease, diagnosis is easy. There are spit tests for the immune markers of gluten sensitivity in saliva. Not even a stick for a blood draw is necessary.
So you tell your doctor you think you have celiac disease, he or she orders a simple test, and 2999 times out of 3000, you don't have celiac disease. You're just sick when you eat wheat. What's your next step?
"Celiac" Disease That Doesn't Focus on the Gut
Doctors are becoming increasingly aware that the effects of celiac disease aren't necessarily limited to the lining of the intestines. While classic celiac sprue only affects about 1 person in 3000, gluten-sensitivity issues that primarily manifest themselves elsewhere in the body may affect about 1 in 100, and the problem tends to run in families. But how can you find out if non-celiac gluten sensitivity disease is a problem for you?