12201 Big Bend Rd., Kirkwood, MO 63122

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an immune response to the consumption of gluten. This is when your immune system becomes active to deal with the gluten that has been consumed and NOT digested. I added the last part there because it is very important. Therefore, some people can have a gluten sensitivity and not a complete reaction to it. Most individuals already understand this concept but with a different molecule.

If you can, think about what happens to individuals that are lactose intolerant. If an individual consumes lactose and is unable to digest it, then symptoms can occur. That is also why some people have the issues while others do not. The same can be said about gluten. Gluten is a large protein molecule that must be digested; otherwise, it can also cause certain symptoms with the GI tract. 

This is when most people start to ask themselves, if it is a digestive problem, then why is the immune system getting involved? Fantastic question! The short answer is that when a large gluten protein makes its way into areas of the GI tract where nothing that large should exist, it is seen as a foreign body. That foreign body must be dealt with by the immune system just like all other foreign body. It just so happens that the immune system is equipped with protease (enzyme that breaks down protein) to do the job. So, the main reason that this is not good for the system, other than the symptoms experienced, is that you are giving the immune system too much work. It also will start to damage the small intestine and make it harder for the body to absorb nutrients. 

Think of the small intestine like the radiator on your car. It has a bunch of little “fins” that increase the surface area to allow the transfer of heat away from the car. The small intestine is similar in that is has tons of villi (little finger like structures) that increase the surface area that allow the body to absorb nutrients. If the villi are flattened, and the small intestine starts to become more “smooth”, then the surface area decreases drastically and absorption is much more difficult. 

Celiac disease treatment

I said all of that to say this, if you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity it will start to break down the small intestine and lead to many other issues down the line. Therefore, diet and digestion are very important. The best way to tackle celiac disease is to get rid of all the gluten that you can and focus on proper digestion.  This is where digestive enzymes come into play. If you have a small intestine that has been damaged by gluten you are going to need good digestion to allow the body to absorb the nutrients from the food you are eating. This is why some people can remove gluten and only feel slightly better. That is because removing gluten is only part of the solution. 

If you want to learn more about celiac treatment, enzyme therapy, or just better digestion in general, contact my office at (314) 805-7837 and set up a consultation with Dr. Ryan Sandheinrich.