glutenThe term “gluten-free” has become mainstream, with those words plastered across popular foods at the grocery store and headlining health reports. Proponents of the gluten-free diet, which very basically means removing wheat and barley products, cite improved digestion, increased energy levels and reduced inflammation. Some even claim it leads to weight loss. The Celiac Disease Center reports that after the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act became law in 2004, sales of gluten-free foods increased by more than $77 million.

Intestinal Damage of GlutenWhat is celiac disease?

But for those with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet isn’t a fad, it’s necessity. Gluten is a protein found in wheat that gives elasticity to dough, helping it both to rise and keep its shape. When celiac disease sufferers eat gluten, their immune systems respond by damaging the small intestine. After a time, nutrients from food can no longer be properly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing patients to become malnourished.

According to the Celiac Disease Center, the disease affects at least 3 million Americans, with 97 percent of those undiagnosed. Because celiac disease can easily be confused with other diseases, it takes, on average, four years for someone to be diagnosed with celiac disease in the United States, dramatically increasing a person’s risk of developing autoimmune disorders, neurological issues and cancer. When someone is diagnosed, the surefire course of action is, of course, to avoid gluten. But it’s not as simple as it sounds, especially because gluten is so prevalent, especially in refined foods.

Enzyme in saliva can break down gluten

Research for new celiac disease treatments has included vaccines and using enzymes to break down gluten before it reaches the small intestine. Researchers at Boston University’s Henry M. Golden School of Dental Medicine recently found that a common enzyme in human saliva can break down gluten compounds that cause the immune system to go into overdrive and harm the small intestine. As reported by the American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, these gluten-degrading enzymes are under further study as potential therapy for those with celiac disease. Because the oral bacteria belong to the same food-grade class as a similar enzyme that has been consumed for decades, there is potential for therapeutic applications of the gluten-degrading enzyme.

Oral health implications of celiac disease

For our patients with celiac disease, maintenance of their oral health is critical. Tooth discoloration and poor enamel formation can be common among celiac disease sufferers. In fact, sometimes these dental clues can help in the diagnosis of celiac disease. If you have celiac disease with these symptoms and need further information about our cosmetic dentistry options, like dental veneers or tooth bonding, or if you’ve noticed these dental issues and need further consultation, please give Caffaratti Dental Group a call today at 775-358-1555.