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Celiac Disease: Not as Rare as We Thought

Posted by Tracii H.

Celiac disease is a growing problem, and nutritionists believe it's got something to do with our increasing intolerance to industrialized foods. But new research also believes that it is associated to the time we were introduced to wheat, barley or rye. Babies first given one of these three foods before three months of age are more likely to develop celiac disease than those who were introduced to the foods between 4 and 6 months. Strangely, the second major risk group is those who first had cereals later than 7 months. These findings are based on a study of 1,560 children who displayed a higher than average risk of developing celiac disease or diabetes. Of these 51 children developed celiac disease and a further 25 had the disease confirmed by small bowel biopsy. Until more investigation into the matter is conducted, researchers recommend that cereals are not allowed into the diet until after 3 months - but then we have the problem of babies who are aged over 7 months. Of course, the most healthful approach is to breastfeed babies, not only to avoid gluten, but also to build the immune system and decrease the risk for allergies to ALL substances down the road.It’s also important to avoid eating gluten-containing foods daily as an adult, as this leads to increased risk of allergy or sensitivity to these foods. A 4-day rotation diet is ideal for avoiding developing food allergies in the first place.
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There is definitely a connection between infantile gluten intolerance and breast-feeding, as mentioned above. Breast-feeding infants can develop a gluten problem in two different ways. One way is that they may be born with a gluten intolerance, and thus experience similar reactions of any other gluten intolerant person when components of gluten are ingested in their mother's milk. The other way in which an infant may develop a gluten intolerance is unique to the infant population. To explain this further, I will reference a section from the book, "Healthier Without Wheat," which helped me to better understand this concept. 

pg 114-115: "It is well accepted now that breast-feeding is very good for infants for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons is that breast milk helps to protect the infant by giving him or her a stronger immune system. As part of this protection, breast-feeding infants ingest their mother's antibodies, found in her breast milk. However, if the mother has a gluten intolerance and continues to eat gluten, then she is making antibodies against gluten, which she passes on to her infant in her breast milk. These antibodies can then trigger in the infant an inflammatory immune response against gluten. In this case the infant may have not been born with a gluten intolerance, but its immune system is obliged to respond to the antibodies in breast milk. Antibodies are essentially flags. A problem - in this case gluten - is being flagged. Therefore the infant's immune system will respond, even though the infant did not produce the antibodies."

 The book then goes into explaining when to introduce gluten to children and at what rate. I would highly recommend checking it out if you want further information on this topic. 

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