One of the medical mysteries around celiac disease is the large number of celiacs who swear that they are being good and not eating any gluten but who still feel lousy. Many continue to have gut damage and are told that they are either lying, incompetent at being gluten-free, or if their doctor does not treat them like a preschooler with a behavior problem, they are told that they are in a category that is somehow not fully responsive to a gluten free diet. The subject is then dropped.
This is not an insignificant problem. One study out of Columbia University where over 7,000 celiacs were biopsied 5 years post diagnosis showed that a full 43% of them were “refactory” which means that their villi did not heal.
There is increasing evidence that the reason that these people do not heal may have to do with the fact that their bodies react to corn and or dairy in the same way that they react to wheat gluten. Note that in each of the following published studies about 1/3 to 1/2 of the celiacs tested suffered measurable intestinal mucosal damage from dairy and corn. So between 33% and 50% of celiacs react to corn and dairy. Hey and 43% still have damage. Can I demonstrate a connection, no. Do I think it warrants further investigation? Well, as one researcher put it
“The observation that corn gluten challenge induced an abnormal NO reaction in some of our patients with CD is intriguing as maize is considered safe and is recommended as the substitute cereal in a gluten free diet. However, a high incidence of serum antibodies against maize has been reported in CD, and failure to normalise the mucosa in a fraction of adult patients with CD and on a strict wheat gluten free diet remains to be explained.”
So here are some of the more interesting studies.
This first study dates from 2007 and was published in Clinical and Experimental Immunology. There were 20 celiacs and 15 controls. The celiacs were given a gluten challenge rectally. 18 of 20 had damage. Duh. Then the same 20 celiacs were given milk protein (casien). 10 of 20 had the same reaction to dairy that they did to gluten. It was the same level of extreme physical damage. Not discomfort, visible damage. Here is the link to that study which was done at the University of Uppsala in Sweden.
This is the abstract
This is the complete study
Once again the celiacs cannot tolerate the beta casiens. Interestingly neither can the type 1 diabetics. Which goes back to the premise that this diet actually helps many if not most people with autoimmune conditions.
This is more of a sentence than an abstract, but note how cavalierly they mention that some celiacs react to dairy the same way that they do to gluten. Like everybody knows that.
This 2012 abstract questioning the safety and wisdom of swapping wheat for maize (corn) in a gluten free diet is not the easiest one to read as it is highly technical, involves protein chemistry, and I am pretty sure that these scientists did not have English as their first language.
This one was published in 2005 in the Journal Gut. The research was done at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. Here they took 13 celiacs and 18 controls. They gave everyone wheat gluten. The celiacs had swelling and inflammation, the controls did not. Then they gave everyone corn gluten (corn protein). Six of the 13 celiacs responded to the corn protein in the exact same way that they had responded to wheat.
This link is to the abstract
This link is to the entire study.
So is this conclusive…no. But if 43% of celiacs are not healing, is this worth further investigation. You bet.
And in the meantime, you may want to think about ditching the corn and the dairy. Try it for a month then have a pile of corn and dairy and see what happens. If its not your issue, then you will be fine.
If you get sick, don’t worry. That is why this site is here.