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Why Do Some with Celiac Disease Never Heal?

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In the advance online issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology February 2010, the results of a study performed at Mayo Clinic were reported. These are very important findings for those suffering from gluten intolerance.

Majority Show Damage Persisting After 5 Years Gluten-free

Dr Murray, a long-time researcher in the field of gluten intolerance, reported that in 57% of adult celiacs, tissue damage persisted after 5 years of adherence to a gluten-free diet. In an effort to evaluate the effect of persistent intestinal damage on long-term health he concluded that regardless of age or sex, adults with celiac disease whose intestinal tissues healed were less likely to die from all causes than were men and women with persistent damage. 

So now you see why I persevere about healing the gut – it’s actually a matter of life and death. The study was conducted on 241 adults, 176 of whom were women with an average age of 47.  The participants were confirmed as having celiac disease and the group had follow-up biopsies 2 and 5 years after their initial diagnosis.

Even Those Following the Diet Continued to Have Damage

Dietitians who met with the participants deemed that 66% had good adherence to a gluten-free diet, which is a common percentage compared to other similar studies. Yet only 43% of those patients who were diligent on their diet achieved intestinal healing. 

In summary, 34% of the celiac population does not follow their diet, and thus we can assume have poor intestinal healing.  And of the remaining “good” gluten-free followers, 57% still do not achieve the goal of intestinal healing and recovery.

72% of Celiacs Don't Heal - Increasing Their Rate of Death

We have a problem.  Taken as a whole, 72% of our celiacs do not achieve intestinal healing and therefore are, according to this study, more likely to die from all causes as compared to those who have achieved healing. I emphasize “all causes” because I think it speaks to the fact that gluten affects so many systems of the body that those who suffer from an intolerance are subject to feeling it’s effect in a multitude of ways. 

While the researchers noted that perhaps gluten was “sneaking” into the diets of those who appeared compliant, I personally don’t believe that answers the predominant cause behind the issue of poor healing. In fact, I am convinced that the biggest problem arises from the fact that "all" we do is remove gluten and it's not adequate. 

Removing gluten doesn't equal healing. It is certainly a mandatory first step but it's inadequate to restore the intestine to normal, optimal health. What should you do? Read on.

Steps to Take to Optimize Healing

Certainly the first place to begin with any patient whose healing is not occurring is to meticulously examine what they’re eating in order to eliminate any hidden sources of gluten.  But it’s important to not stop there.  Other steps must also be taken and these are some of what we do with our patients to a very good result:

1.  Eliminate dairy products.  They are a known inflammatory agent to the intestines and I see much better results when patients exclude dairy products from their diet.

2. Get evaluated for any infectious organisms such as parasites, bacteria, amoeba and yeast. The presence of such organism prevents healing. This is done with a lab test.

3. Evaluate the health and diversity of the probiotics in the intestine.  It is difficult to overestimate the importance of having a strong gut immune system and the 60 trillion organisms that make up the probiotic population of a healthy gut are an integral part of it. This evaluation is done with the same lab test as step #2.

4. Discover any nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin B12, D, folic acid, etc. This is also done with a lab test.

5. Consume more organic fruits and vegetables.  The average American requires seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day and I sometimes  question whether they even achieve two.  The special antioxidant nutrients in fruits and vegetables provide great healing and detoxification to the intestine and the body as a whole.

6. Stay hydrated.  I find many patients are dehydrated and can’t adequately eliminate toxins due to this state. A minimum of 8-10 glasses of purified water per day will suit most people.

7. Strive to eliminate as many medications as you possibly can from your system.  Many are known to create a leaky gut, exactly the opposite of what you are striving to achieve.We regularly are able to eliminate medications for our patients once healing has occurred.

Whether you have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or are just suspicious that gluten intolerance could be affecting you, this is important information to know. Too many people are suffering from ill health and literally dying from undiagnosed gluten intolerance. We are here to help. Our Destination Clinic sees patients from across the country as well as internationally. Please let me know how best I can assist you. 

Do You Have Gluten Intolerance?

Find out now!—contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION. Call (408) 733-0400 to schedule. If you are not local to us, our DESTINATION CLINIC treats patients from across the country and internationally. We will help you find the underlying root cause!

To your health,

Dr. Vikki Petersen
DC, CCN

IFM Certified Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of "The Gluten Effect"
Author of eBook: "Gluten Intolerance – What You Don't Know May Be Killing You!"

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