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Gluten intolerance might be an autoimmune disorder

In recent posts, we’ve discussed the contribution that diet may make to long-term wellness. Diet may also play a role in reducing the risk of certain disabilities and chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Some readers may have tried gluten-free food products in their quest for a healthier diet. The trend is apparently growing: Each day, Americans consume around 60 million gluten-free foods. Yet there is also a very real concern behind this dietary choice.

Specifically, a condition called celiac disease may cause serious health problems in individuals who digest gluten, or the complex of proteins found in many different grains. Although that condition may sound like an allergy, it’s actually a genetic disorder. The condition is also more common than readers might expect. Data from the Center for Celiac Research suggests that 1 out of every 133 Americans has the disease.

In people with celiac disease, eating gluten may trigger an autoimmune response of inflammation in the small intestine. Repeated triggers may cause damage to the small intestine, which may lead to bigger problems. As with many autoimmune disorders, there is not yet a cure for celiac disease. Fortunately, dietary restrictions can help people with the condition live normal lives.

Americans with other autoimmune disorders -- of which there are over 80 different kinds -- might not be as lucky. Common examples of autoimmune diseases include Type 1 diabetes, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. For such patients, Social Security disability benefits might provide assistance until their symptoms subside and allow them to return to work.


Source:, “Gluten Intolerance: Is It Celiac Disease or Something Else?” Kristin Marino, Aug. 28, 2013

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