Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten, a protein in wheat, barley, rye and spelt. Currently, the only treatment available is the adoption of a lifelong gluten free diet, which is made particularly challenging due to the ubiquity of wheat in western diets. It is an excellent example of environmental challenge meeting gene susceptibility, and is a unique example of how exclusion of an environmental trigger can resolve the symptoms.
“Celiac disease has become much more common in the last 50 years, and we don’t know why,” said Dr Joseph Murray, the Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist who led the study. “…Obviously human genes haven’t changed, but something has changed in our environment to make this disease more common.”
Rubio-Tapia A, Kyle RA, Kaplan EL, Johnson DR, Page W, Erdtmann F, Brantner TL, Increased prevalence and mortality in undiagnosed celiac disease. Kim WR, Phelps TK, Lahr BD, Zinsmeister AR, Melton LJ 3rd, Murray JA.Gastroenterology. 2009 Jul;137(1):88-93. Epub 2009 Apr 10. View Abstract