Sunday, December 21, 2008

Celiac and Diabetes

I know a student studying nutrition in Arizona that has type 1 diabetes and has been suffering from gastrointestinal pain after eating. It may be celiac disease (celiac sprue).

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder like type 1 diabetes. In fact some of the most recent JDRF sponsored research point to a high genetic similarity between the two diseases, and the chances for a T1 diabetic to have celiac as well is much higher than the general population.

Celiac Sprue is a gluten intolerance. There's a protein called gliadin that is in wheat, malt, barley and rye that cause an autoimmune response in patients with celiac. In Type 1 diabetes, your autoimmune system gets confused and attacks the insulin producing cells in your pancreas. In celiac, your immune system get's "triggered" by gluten in your digestive system and attacks the lining of your small intestine. This causes terrible cramps, bowel distress, but most importantly, you can't absorb any of the nutrients from the food you eat.

The good news is that there's a cure for celiac disease: a gluten free diet. It's a pain to check out the ingredients of everything you eat and to have to be careful of what to order in restaurants, but as a family dealing with diabetes we do that anyway. The even better news is that your digestive system's lining gets ***completely*** regenerated after only 6 months on the diet.

There are blood tests (like the antigliadin antibody test) and an intestinal biopsy that can be done to see if you have this disease. But you should talk to your endocrinologist and possibly have her refer you to a good gastroenterologist to make the determination.

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