Celiac Disease | Inability to Digest Gluten
Celiac disease is a condition that involves the inability to digest gluten, a protein found in the glutinous grains. Although celiac disease is not a commonly diagnosed condition, celiac disease may be more widespread than records indicate. The symptoms of celiac disease are – diarrhea, abdominal pain, flatulence, weight loss, anemia, muscle cramps, and spasms – are similar to other chronic intestinal disorders, and so may easily be misdiagnosed.
Gluten is the tough elastic protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Oats also contain substantial gluten, but for an unknown reason, do not cause problems in those with gluten intolerance.
In celiac disease, the gluten of the above cereals (except oats) is not digested, perhaps because of a lack of pancreatic enzymes. However, simple indigestion is not the only problem: during the celiac disease process, the villi of the small intestine are destroyed, impairing the assimilation of nutrients from all foods.
There are also many cases in which prior intestinal damage brings on celiac disease – this damage may be caused by mental stress, long-term use of laxatives, intestinal infections and parasites, excessive coffee-drinking, and protein deficiencies caused by anorexia or specific weight-loss regimes.
From the standpoint of Chinese medicine, the inability to digest any healthful food suggests a weakened spleen-pancreas severely lacking in energy and digestive fire. Sure of the signs mentioned above of celiac disease, namely diarrhea, abdominal pain, flatulence, weight loss, and anemia, are also signs of weak spleen-pancreas qi energy.
Celiac disease patients with these symptoms need to follow the remedies for tonifying the spleen-pancreas: restrict cooling and highly mucus forming foods (some celiacs do not improve unless both gluten and milk are withdrawn) and add more warming foods.
Often, persons with celiac disease are deficient in B vitamins and other nutrients supplied by whole grains. This need not be a problem – one can always choose from the non-glutinous varieties of grains such as brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth as well as oats.
Sweet rice, a sticky grain not always tolerated by people living with celiac disease, is among the remedies for deficient spleen-pancreas qi (above) and decent blood (below). Sweet rice-intolerant celiacs with these deficiencies should avoid sweet rice and use the other recommended remedies.
Because of nutrient malabsorption, the treatment of celiac disease must also address the likelihood of anemia and malnutrition, and can, therefore, include the blood-building remedies.
To restore the small intestines and the digestive system in general, the dietary approach should consist of recognition of possible liver stagnation and the use of flaxseed tea. Nettle leaf (Urtica urens) tea encourages explicitly the renewal of intestinal villi, but it should not be taken while signs of coldness exist.
It appears that many people with schizophrenia have celiac disease. They frequently manifest similar digestive symptoms, and carefully controlled studies show that people with schizophrenia improve faster on a gluten-free diet.
It is entirely possible that among millions of people with sensitivities to wheat, a large number suffer from an inability to digest the gluten. Since celiac disease (symptoms) come and go, the condition may be prevalent in the general population, but to a minor and varying degree that depends on individuals’ fluctuating eating patterns and emotional health. Those who suspect a gluten intolerance (celiac disease) can try avoiding the glutinous grains and all their products for at least two months to see if symptoms are relieved. People with Celiac disease who are severely afflicted can expect the significant renewal to require one or more years of consistent effort.
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