The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 856: Celiac Disease Update

How you can find out if you have celiac disease, what that means and what you can do about it

Doctors once thought that celiac disease was extremely rare, but within the past decade it has become clear that it is far more common. It can be difficult to diagnose, however, since the symptoms of celiac disease may mask many other conditions.

Find out how new information about diagnosing and treating celiac disease could change your life.

This Week’s Guest:

Peter H. R. Green, MD, is Professor of Clinical Medicine in the College of Physicians & Surgeons at Columbia University and Director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. He is co-author of Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic. His website is:

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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If anybody can answer with regard to testing for gluten sensitivity I’d appreciate it. My daughter’s pediatrician just dismissed the possibility out of hand, but she has been aware of her many symptoms over the years. Many of her symptoms are listed above. We were directed to a testing lab that tests fecal samples, but it is very expensive.

Why are Oats not considered Gluten free? Aren’t Organic oats that were not processed in a facility that processes wheat safe to eat?

For those of us with gluten sensitivity, eating soy may be a problem because when harvested, the soy beans are dusted with wheat flour to prevent them from sticking together. Therefore, most soy is contaminated.
Another source of irritation could be oats, even though it does not contain gluten. Excellent sources of protein and fiber for celiacs are chia, quinoa and hemp seeds. They taste good too.

I live at the border to Canada, so access to the “prick the finger test” is easy and apparently inexpensive. 1) does it require a prescription, and 2) does it require a physician to administer and/or interpret the results, and 3) if so, can a family physician perform these services, and if not, which specialist?

@melodae: I have found gluten-free, wheat-free, fermented soy sauce at our local produce/whole foods grocery. Surprisingly, it has a slightly different (but good) taste. Friends and I have disposed of any food product in our homes that contain wheat with beneficial effects.
From what I have read and witnessed from TV expose’ episodes on who and what finance medical “studies”, I no longer trust pronouncements about “Eat this – it’s good for you” (and if you don’t you harm the finance sheets of Big Factory-Agriculture). These companies are not in business to help keep us healthy -they are in business to maximize their profits.

This is what I heard today concerning the diagnosis for Celiac disease. Doctors who aren’t “aware” and have not been trained in Celiac. Doctors who refuse to give the tests and insurance companies who refuse to pay.
A “gold standard” test that doesn’t always work, isn’t always done correctly, isn’t always interpreted correctly, and can change depending on your (healthier) diet or results that can change over time for some unknown reason.
Yet again and again Dr Green discourages people from just TRYING to adjust their diet to see what happens. His main reasons for eating wheat seems to be big business won’t be happy if you stop and it’s not easy to stay away from the heroin – I mean wheat. A wheat free diet “can be” low in fiber, iron, and B vitamins? What about vegetables and beans? Most of the “vitamins, minerals, and fiber” in bread products are added anyway – take a multvitamin if you are concerned. Twenty percent of our calories comes from wheat? Who wouldn’t do well with 20% fewer calories?
Anyone who loves the People’s Pharmacy – as I do – knows that taking charge of your own health and “healthy” experimentation is what PP is all about! After all, only I have 24/7 access to how my body feels and reacts to everything I do and ingest. I just have to pay attention. Every “body” is different – medicine has a difficult time adjusting to that.
That said, I did enjoy the show and did learn a lot. Thank you, thank you Terry and Joe. Excellent as always!

how accurate is the blood finger stick test – available in canada?
is this test available/affordable to buy at any reputable site on-line (for those of us who cannot easily cross the border to go shopping)?
thank you

I think Dr Green is doing a disservice to sufferers to diminish somewhat the breadth of problems people have with gluten. I do not have celiac disease but I suffer nonetheless when I ingest gluten. My symptoms are common : fatigue, ‘fuzzy-headedness’, aching joints and muscles, ‘heartburn’, headache. I also developed burning pain in the tendons of my feet. I suspect gluten causes me shortness of breath.
Gluten is in foodstuffs where it has no business e.g. Campbell’s tomato soup. We are so inundated with gluten is it a wonder our bodies are rebelling?
We are not alone in our suffering. Manufacturers are using gluten as filler in dog and cat food. It may give them a better bottom line but it is making our companions sick and miserable, shortening their lives. Cats are obligate carnivores. They have no ability to cope with gluten.
The gluten problem is just another example of corporate America’s disdain for consumers.

Dr. Green did not talk about the actual damage to the intestines of a celiac sufferer, or what that lack of absorption does to the rest of the systems.
I went undiagnosed (officially) for two years after telling my doctor I had had a lot of the symptoms (many she knew about, such as IBS) and wanted to be tested. She refused. Two years later, my endocrinologist (for hypothyroidism) listened to my symptoms and ordered the test.
That was five years ago, and I’m still trying to recover. Now, the smallest amount of gluten will make me sick — nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. My thinking is finally clearing, but I have five years to make up for, since I had no support from family nor friends. Because I don’t look sick (I had gained nearly 70 pounds since the diagnosis — I was a skeletal 110 when diagnosed.), no one takes my celiac seriously.
Dr. Green was right about choosing the right foods after diagnosis. Unfortunately, most of my comfort foods didn’t contain gluten, and they’ve added to my problems. But, as I said, my mind is clearing, and the weight loss process is ongoing.
And Terry, not all soy sauce contains gluten. LaChoy does not, while Kikkoman does.

I have have been a celiac for a number of years and had breast cancer, non-hodgins lymphoma and I stay very true fo a gluten free diet. I hurt as if I had an ulcer when I just by chance get some food with gluten. I am able to tell almost within 5 minutes. I assume this is the reason for this. I really enjoyed hearing Dr. Brown. I have never heard that cancer was associated with celiac. There are so many associated problems. Thank you. Pat

My fiance was diagnosed with Celiac after biopsy. We are gluten free for over a year. The dermatitis herpetiformis is gone but he still has GI sxs. Could he be lactose intolerant also, as I have read they may be related.

Could you discuss the differences between regular wheat berries and spelt and let the listeners know if spelt is a good substitute for wheat for those with Celiac disease?
I’ve limited gluten in my diet but this is the first time I heard there is gluten in barley and rye.

Today’s wheat is a GMO frankencreation totally non-related to the biblical version of that wheat which provided the foundation for whole-grain bread. What if instead of “Celiac Disease” people are experiencing an allergic reaction to the present franken-creation of GMO modified wheat?
Some friends and I are not able to walk the grocery-store bread aisle without experiencing the same throat-closing effect as when encountering tobacco smoke. There is a sharp, acrid smell to commercial wheat-based bread that prevents us from getting close enough to want to consume it.
What is truly bothersome, is that the longer you do not eat wheat-based bread the more impossible it is to get close enough to it to do so.

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