Alternate Treatments for Celiac Disease
Celiac Disease, an autoimmune illness, affects the small intestine. It impacts the mucosa and impairs nutrition absorption into the body. Naturally, this has a ripple effect on the general health and well-being of a person.
There are various causes that lead to the development of the disease. These could be:
A) Genetic – Presence of the HLA or Celiac gene that puts one at risk of having the disease. If a family member has been diagnosed with the illness, there is a high probability that you too may be a carrier of the gene and therefore, be at risk.
B) Environmental– Ingestion of gluten loaded foods is a trigger for the disease. Gluten is a protein found in grains such as barley, rye, wheat, etc. And has been known to activate the disease more than anything else.
Currently, the most direct method of treatment is the total boycott of gluten-rich foods. However, the biggest challenge to this line of treatment is the adherence to the diet itself. Since most food items available in the market contain gluten, it becomes practically difficult to find gluten-free alternatives that are also inexpensive.
So, are there any alternative therapies to treat CD?
1. Gluten-free Wheat
While there are several gluten-free grain alternatives available for people suffering from CD, they are by and large low on complex carbohydrates, certain vitamins, and fibers. However, genetically modified gluten sounds like a big relief for people with Celiac.
Because CD is caused by gliadins, a group of protein found in wheat, scientists have now figured out a way to remove 90% of it from wheat grains. Currently, efforts are still being made to remove the genes entirely. So Celiac impacted persons might still be able to enjoy their wheat bread after all.
2. Larazotide Acetate
Gliadins activate the secretion of zonulin. Zonulin is a protein that is responsible for intestinal permeability or ‘leaky gut’. This, in turn, aids the transportation of gluten and inflammation in the intestines that are associated with CD. Larazotide Acetate is a drug that inhibits zonulin and prevents the ‘leaky gut’ situation. The pill needs to be taken before the consumption of gluten-containing food in order to stop the inflammatory and intestinal permeability issues caused by zonulin.
3. Immunotherapy Vaccine
Nexvax2 is a therapeutic vaccine currently being tested by the Australian company Nexpep. The vaccine builds up the body’s own immune system to fight CD by increasing the amount of the vaccine slowly. Those with the HLA-DQ2 gene have shown a positive response to it. This means that nearly 90% of people diagnosed with CD may benefit from it.
4. Nematodes or Probiotic Bacteria
A current area of research involves increasing the immunological response to CD and inhibiting the reaction to gluten. The larvae of hookworm were injected into the skin of research participants and they were given foods containing gluten. However, there were no major alterations found in inflammatory reactions usually observed in CD patients. There have also been tests that involve introducing probiotic strains that may stop the damage caused to the intestine by the ingestion of gluten.
5. TG-2 Inhibitors
The enzyme TG-2 is actively involved in the progress of Celiac Disease. Treating TG-2 could, therefore, lead one directly to treatment for CD. Recent research involved introducing TG-2 inhibitors into tissue samples of CD affected persons. It showed a reduction in T-cell response to the peptides in the gluten. This, therefore, could be a potential line of treatment for the disease as well.
While these are just a few of the studies currently underway, it is clear that there is an active interest in Celiac Disease and a cure that does not inhibit a person’s daily activities or choice of food. While a gluten-free diet is still prescribed, any of these therapies may go a long way in resolving the issue of CD patients and allowing them to lead a more normal life.