B Vitamins Battle the Celiac Disease Epidemic
I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard of the new disease that seems to be rising to epidemic levels in our nation: Celiac disease. Far from a simple discomforting condition, Celiac disease can be a life-threatening malady. Fortunately researchers are finding effective ways to battle the effects of this disease, including the use of the B vitamins.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a gastrointestinal autoimmune disorder that is triggered by the consumption of gluten, a protein found in wheat products. The immune system perceives the presence of gluten in the small intestine as a pathogenic invader, and in the process of attacking the protein, the immune cells attack the small hairs in the intestine called villi, effectively destroying them. As this process continues, the body’s ability to absorb microscopic nutrients becomes degraded, which results in malnourishment. This in turn leads to hyperhomocysteinemia, which can cause heart disease, stroke, and a breakdown of blood vessels in the arms and legs.
How is Celiac Disease Treated?
The first defense against Celiac disease is a complete removal of gluten from the diet. However, recent findings from the World Journal of Gastroenterology have demonstrated that even after gluten is removed from the diet, hyperhomocysteinemia is still prevalent. The research study suggests that adding vitamin B to the diet of celiac patients may help to reduce homocysteine levels in the blood.
The Research on Celiac and B Vitamins
All of the B vitamins, including B6 and B12, along with folic acid help the body to destroy the chemical bonds of homocysteine, thereby reducing it in the bloodstream. The researchers tested this with a population of 101 adults—51 of which had celiac disease, and 50 of which were healthy. All of the research subjects had their blood evaluated for homocysteine, folate, and B vitamin levels. The celiac patients who took vitamin B supplements showed significantly lower levels of homocysteine in their blood, than the celiac patients who did not take B vitamins. In fact, their homocysteine levels were normal. This is a significant finding, as the risk of death in Celiac disease centers on hyperhomocysteinemia.
The implications of this study indicate that one way to combat the dangerous consequences of Celiac disease is to supplement the diet with B Vitamins, particularly vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. This treatment can be combined with introducing a gluten-free diet to the patient. These two strategies can significantly prolong the life of individuals who suffer from Celiac disease.
Hope for the Future
Celiac disease is a life-threatening condition. While the current anti-gluten food trend has more to do with weight loss and overall healthy eating, offering gluten free food in grocery stores and restaurants can provide people who suffer from Celiac disease with more options, helping them to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The disease destroys the villi in the intestinal wall, which makes absorption of vitamins and minerals difficult. By introducing a B vitamin supplement, Celiac disease sufferers can help stave off some of this malnutrition. Other supplements may help as well. More research is needed before doctors will be able to prescribe other vitamins to help ease the effects of this devastating disease.