I don’t usually go sciency on my blog, but when Celiac Disease shows up in the NYTimes — and not mocking “designer illnesses” — my ears perk. As a Celiac woman, I am aware of the possibility that I could pass my disease to my children. I spend so much time thinking about how it affects me and how to cope with the day-to-day reality of such an illness that I don’t even know where to start when it comes to being able to safeguard, if at all possible, or how to discuss with a child that they can’t trade sandwiches with Tommy in the cafeteria.
This article, “Who Has the Guts for Gluten?”, doesn’t have the answer, but it does talk about current and past research on what causes Celiac. (Don’t read the comments. If you suffer, you will find people who are going through the same things but moaning rather than empowering others or folks who tell you it’s all in your head; if you don’t suffer, you won’t find anything enlightening.) The biggest take-away I got was the importance of a balanced gut. I swear my life got a hundred times better when I found the right probiotic for my body (Bio-Kult, if you’re interested, which is gluten-free and vegetarian).
The article suggests that, with much of the research, there is a “the chicken or the egg” conundrum — namely, do poor levels of specific gut bacteria cause Celiac, or does Celiac create conditions where these bacteria die off? They know that Celiac has genetic factors. Having a Celiac parent raises your likelihood of also suffering from about 1% to almost 20%; two parents increases that number to 45%. I’ve always been an egg girl, myself. My not-a-scientist scientific knowledge suggests that a mutation has to occur in offspring. Something near enough a chicken would have to lay an egg; the egg would hatch to a chicken, which would then produce more chicken eggs. Even a small population of not-quite-chickens facing the same environmental conditions would produce the chicken eggs, thus insuring the new species would continue, for a while anyway.
Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I don’t think the bacteria are actually chickens or eggs. I think the bacteria are the environmental conditions which make something already in your body (the not-quite-chicken) begin to express symptoms (the egg). When enough of the symptoms are present, it becomes diagnosed or otherwise acknowledged as Celiac (the chicken). Once the chicken exists, it is hard to keep it from producing more eggs. When the environmental conditions are right, lots of eggs are produced — the more eggs that hatch that look like chickens, the harder it is to say chickens don’t exist.
If you prevent the conditions, there are no eggs and no chickens. The chicken never exists. The not-quite-chicken is still there, but the evolution of that species just stops. If they don’t ever lay chicken eggs, there are no symptoms. If you know there is a genetic predisposition in a child for Celiac, work on boosting the good bacteria from birth. Many probiotics are safe for pregnant and breast-feeding women. I’m a firm believer that breast-feeding gives a child the best start possible, especially when considering the proteins and antibodies the mothers can pass to their children. Keep the crap (We’re all guilty!) out of their mouths as long as possible, fuel them with good, whole foods, homemake their indulgences so you know exactly what is in them, and we can work toward wiping out the chicken population — metaphorically speaking, of course.