Celiac Disease and Environmental Illnesses
Those suffering from environmental illnesses may be at increased risk for developing celiac disease. The main reason for this being that those with environmental illnesses experience a much greater number of allergies and autoimmune conditions than do otherwise healthy individuals. For example, the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in the US reports that allergies are present in 75% of CFS sufferers, compared to only 10-20% in general in the population as a whole. Sufferers of all of the Environmental Illnesses often have a history of allergies before the onset of their illness and most develop new allergies after getting a diagnosis of CFS, fibromyalgia etc. There is also a substantial body of research demonstrating that the immune systems of environmental illness sufferers are shifted towards a Th2 type response. The Th2 response is aimed at extracellular invaders such as bacteria, toxins, and allergens, and a Th2 shifted immune response is associated with an increase in allergies and autoimmune diseases (7,8,9). As we have learned, allergies and autoimmune diseases are well recognized as increasing the risk for celiac disease.
Another possible connection between environmental illnesses and celiac disease involves the gut flora. Various studies have shown disturbances of the healthy gut flora in environmental illnesses and many doctors who specialize in treating them advocate treating overgrowth of Candida and bacteria in the intestines. Research published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet in 2003 proposed that Candida in the intestine may act as a trigger for the production of antibodies against gluten and the intestinal tissue which cause celiac disease. This assertion is based on the fact that the yeast Candida contains proteins that are identical and very similar to those found in gluten, including gliadin. Candida also triggers the same tissue transglutaminase and endomysial enzymes involved in celiac disease. It is therefore possible that changes in levels and behavior of Candida in the intestines may result in an immune response to the organism which is then transferred to gluten and intestinal tissues due to the common proteins they contain. The end result would therefore be celiac disease (10).
7. Lancet. 1997 Jun 21;349(9068):1831-3. Gulf War syndrome: is it due to a systemic shift in cytokine balance towards a Th2 profile? Rook GA, Zumla A. Department of Bacteriology, University College London Medical School, UK.
8. Pharmacol Rev. 2000 Dec;52(4):595-638. The sympathetic nerve--an integrative interface between two supersystems: the and the immune system. Elenkov IJ, Wilder RL, Chrousos GP, Vizi ES. Inflammatory Joint Diseases Section, Arthritis and Rheumatism Branch, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
9. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000;917:868-75. Altered glucocorticoid regulation of the immune response in the chronic fatigue syndrome. Visser JT, De Kloet ER, Nagelkerken L. TNO Prevention and Health, Division of Immunological and Infectious Diseases, P.O. Box 2215, 2301 CE Leiden, The Netherlands