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Celiac Disease Boosts Mortality

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People with celiac disease are at greater risk for premature death. That's the conclusion of a new study from Sweden. The investigators used health records from the Swedish Total Population Register and found that those who had evidence of damage in the small intestine due to gluten sensitivity were almost 40 percent more likely to die over a specified period of time.

Celiac disease is an auto-immune condition triggered by exposure to the gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Heart disease and cancer accounted for most of the increased risk of death. The researchers point out that the absolute excess mortality was quite small, so there is no need to panic. Nevertheless, it is important for people to be tested for this condition. It is more common than many physicians have been taught.

[Journal of the American Medical Association, Sept. 16, 2009]

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I don't know if I actually have Celiac Disease but I do get very ill and lots of cramps when I eat bread, pasta, and cereals so I gave them up. However I have no problem with oatmeal which I just started last week. It agrees with me and I thought it might cause a problem. Does oats fall into the same category as wheat ?

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: OATS CONTAIN NO GLUTEN, ALTHOUGH SOME OATMEAL MAY BECOME CONTAMINATED DURING PROCESSING.

I recently started to try to eliminate as much gluten as I could from my diet. After years of being plagued by bloating, gas, diarrhea, and cramping, I found to my surprise that I feel much better and have absolutely no symptoms if I adhere to my low-or-no-gluten diet! I also seem to be able to tolerate dairy products and don't react to ice cream and chocolate like I used to. I always thought if I had a nice bland piece of toast for breakfast, I'd feel better during the day, and now I think the toast was the offender.

I also read that people with a gluten intolerance may be anemic as a child and osteoporotic as an adult. I had anemia as a child and no one could figure out why. Now I am osteoporotic but hope that a low gluten diet will help somehow in addition to my nasal spray and calcium.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: RATHER THAN JUMP INTO A "LOW-GLUTEN DIET" ASK YOUR DOCTOR FOR A DIAGNOSTIC WORKUP. YOU SHOULD CONTINUE TO EAT GLUTEN RIGHT UP TO THE PROCEDURE SO THAT YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO GET AN ACCURATE RESULT. THEN YOU WILL KNOW IF YOU REALLY NEED A GLUTEN-FREE DIET TO STAY HEALTHY.

I enjoy reading your e-mail and reading your articles in the state journal. Thanks

I'm not sure if oatmeal contains gluten 100% of the time or not. I've read varying results regarding oats so maybe the Graedon's can help out with that question. I really haven't researched it that much. I'm still a novice at this change-my-entire-eating-habits stuff myself. I really miss bread the most and rice bread just doesn't do it for me! It's great to finally find an answer to a chronic problem though, isn't it? JM

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: OATS DO NOT CONTAIN GLUTEN, BUT OATMEAL MAY, FOR TWO REASONS. OFTEN IT IS PROCESSED ON EQUIPMENT THAT IS ALSO USED TO PROCESS WHEAT, AND IT BECOMES CONTAMINATED. THE OTHER REASON IS THAT IT MAY BE GROWN IN A FIELD PREVIOUSLY USED TO GROW WHEAT. EVEN A FEW WHEAT PLANTS MAY GROW UP AMONGST THE OATS AND BE INADVERTENTLY HARVESTED WITH THE OATS--LEADING TO A LOW-LEVEL CONTAMINATION THAT IS STILL DANGEROUS FOR THOSE WITH CELIAC DISEASE. LOOK FOR OATMEAL CERTIFIED AS GLUTEN-FREE. THERE ARE APPARENTLY A FEW PEOPLE WITH CELIAC DISEASE WHO MAY NOT BE ABLE TO TOLERATE EVEN GLUTEN-FREE OATS BECAUSE THEY REACT TO AN OAT PROTEIN, BUT MOST DO NOT.

Thanks for your response, I too was anemic as a child and docs didn't know why. It certainly is food for thought --- the connection. Thanks again.

I did find yesterday rolled oats that say gluten free. I had been using the popular brand of oatmeal and found myself having coughing attacks right after I eat it but not getting sick to my stomach. Since I have eaten the gluten free oatmeal I don't cough after I eat. Also, I'm curious if this has happened to anyone else but before I even suspected a possible wheat problem, as I started to walk down the isle in the bread dept of the store I began to cough and cough. Has any one had this problem?

I think your coughing cessation since giving up some gluten is very interesting. I had the same type of result after stopping toast at the beginning of the day. Every morning I would sneeze 4 times-like clockwork after eating. Now, new gluten-free eating regimen-no sneezing at all. It completely stopped.

Definitely connected I think. It's funny also, my mother used to do the same exact thing. She blamed it on the old catch-all culprit...sinuses. When people blame their symptoms on just "sinuses" they never wonder what causes the sinus symptoms in the first place.

I don't think we realize the varied manifestations of food allergy/incompatibility that exist. Keeping a food journal is also a great thing to do, it helps you log your type of food intake and your symptoms thereafter. It really opened my eyes to many problems. JM

My mother tried to add oats to her very restricted diet and ended up in the hospital. She is very careful and eats about the same food everyday. There was nothing other than the oats that could have caused it. We will not try them again. She ended up in ICU with a blood pressure of 40/20 and a temp of 102.5. She had had vomiting and diarrhea for 3 weeks. We were in the ER 3 times she was so sick and dehydrated. It just is not worth it.

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