As promised, I want to review some of the highlights from the recent conference on the relation between our gut, our brain, our immune system and our food.
To the right, you will see me pictured with my colleague Joel Kahn, M.D. who was one of the speakers. Joel spoke on the relationship of gluten to celiac disease.I did not realize there was such a strong connection. Specifically, cardiomyopathy, which is an intrinsic disease of the muscle the heart, is one of the most common diseases associated with celiac disease.
There is an epidemic of Atrial Fibrillation now in our society amongst the baby-boomers. Recent studies have shown that celiac disease can be a cause of atrial fibrillation. In addition, studies have shown a relationship between celiac disease and the functioning of the inner lining of the blood vessels of the heart. Specifically, the study found endothelial dysfunction in celiac patients.
Finally, I am finding more and more patients with elevated homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood. It is analogous to cholesterol but not related to cholesterol or our diet. An elevation of the blood level of this amino acid,increases the risk for heart disease and cancer. This subsequent study found that in celiac disease, patients’ exclusion of gluten would normalize their homocysteine level. This would make it so that it is not necessary to use medications to help people with celiac disease, who have a high [homocysteine]
Again, the studies I am mentioning to you have shown the relationship of celiac disease and heart disease. I raise the question of what happens to patients who have “incomplete celiac” disease. I.e. Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity?
I talk to my patients all the time about how health is on a spectrum. Even though celiac disease is way over in the disease column, what about the effects on the heart of gluten sensitivity that is not at this time documented to be celiac disease?
If you have friends or relatives with cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation, or elevated homocysteine, suggest to them that their doctor should check them for celiac disease. Hopefully, research will show us whether having Non-celiac gluten sensitivity has any relation to these cardiovascular conditions as well.