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Healthline (Continued from page 10)


obvious symptoms result from poor absorption of vitamins and minerals and also from mistaken autoimmune attacks on other organs by the antibodies produced in the intestine. Malabsorption is the central feature


of all of the early descriptions of gluten sensitivity (or intolerance—the terms are interchangeable). Pediatri- cians in the 1950s were the first to tumble to the conclusion that dietary wheat could be related to malabsorp- tion symptoms. In searching for treatments for some poorly growing children who were chronically ill with skin rashes and diarrhea and had other problems like abdominal pain, anemia, seizures, and neuropathies, they saw great improvements when wheat was completely removed from the diet.


Dietary wheat restriction gradually spread to the treatment of adults with similar mysterious symptoms, which were then known as celiac disease (L. coeliacus, meaning pertaining to the bowels). As the relationship to wheat became more defined, that nonspecific name gave way to the term “gluten enteropathy,” which means intestinal disease caused by gluten. “Gluten sensitivity” and “intolerance” were later additions to the lexicon, showing up in medical literature as it became apparent that the problem with gluten extended along a very broad spectrum, all the way from no symptoms to the severe symptoms seen in a small number of children and adults. The ability to diagnose a whole spectrum of gluten-related problems has grown primarily because of the relatively recent development of blood tests that can detect antibodies against gluten components and because easier techniques for biopsy- ing the lining of the small intestine are now available. In addition, the recognition that certain types of autoimmune diseases occur regularly in people with gluten intolerance has helped sort the problem into three types: classical (still commonly referred to as celiac disease), silent, and latent gluten intolerance (see chart on page 10). The autoimmune diseases most


60


STATE ASSOCIATION NEWS


The Vermont Elks Association held its annual conven- tion May 21–23, 2010, in North Conway, New Hampshire. The nearly 230 Elks and guests in attendance included State Sponsor Amos McCallum and his wife, Barbara, and Grand Lodge Committeeman William Hopkins. The Vermont Elks elected Gene Besaw, of the Newport Lodge, as their 2010–2011 state president. Other state officers installed at the convention were First VP Robert Milne, Montpelier; Second VP Lori Pinsonneault, Bennington; Third VP A. Keith Palmer, St. Albans; Secy. Brian Gaura, Rutland; Treas. Robert Kimball, Bellows Falls; Esq. Thomas Maloney, Newport; Chaplain Marcel Poulin, Newport; and Tiler Rosalie Bowen, Newport.


SP Gene Besaw


The Vermont Elks Association will hold its next annual convention May 20–22, 2011, in North Conway, New Hampshire.


commonly associated with gluten intolerance are a rash called dermati- tis herpetiformis, type 1 diabetes, and inflammation of the thyroid gland. Spillover immune activity may also account for nonspecific symptoms like joint pain and fatigue. The list of conditions associated with gluten intolerance is long and varied, but the gold standard for determining whether or not they are caused by gluten exposure is their disappearance when a patient strictly adheres to a gluten-free diet.


Gluten intolerance is worth finding early because the longer the exposure to gluten continues in a sensitive patient, the more damage will be done to the lining of the small intestine and the more likely the patient will develop complications from poor food absorption and from stimulation of the immune system. In addition, some types of lymphomas and bowel cancers are more common in patients with classical gluten intolerance. Death rates from heart disease and cancer are also higher in this group than in the rest of the population. With adherence to a gluten-free diet (avoiding wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats), antibodies drop. In six to twelve months the lining of the small bowel can recover. Adherence, however, is difficult, and results vary because small amounts of gluten are present in many grain-based foods and hidden in other processed foods. Is gluten intolerance a new or increasing problem? Antibody tests done on blood samples that were


drawn many years ago (for unrelated problems) show a gradual, steady rise in the number of people with positive tests over the last fifty years. Current estimates are that one in every one hundred people in the Western world is gluten intolerant, with females affected twice as often as men. Theories abound as to why the problem is on the rise. Modern wheat, the product of crossbreeding many different varieties, contains more gluten than ancient stocks. Our foods are largely processed, stripped of many nutrients and enzymes and loaded with chemi- cal colors, flavors, and preservatives. Widespread use of antibiotics and antacid drugs may alter the bacterial balance of power in the gut in some unknown way that sets the stage for hyperactive immune response. Whatever the cause, gluten intoler- ance is on the rise and gluten-free products are not just another fad. ■


Answers to crossword puzzle on preceding page.


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