Monday, February 01, 2010

Gluten Sensitivity and Genes

If you’ve been reading much about celiac you’ve probably already heard of the genes HLA DQ2 and DQ8. I thought it would be helpful to give a simplified primer on the genes in order to understand why we see some of the disease relationships we do, such as an increased incidence of diabetes in celiacs.

HLA stands for human leukocyte antigen and these specific genes tells our immune system what is considered normal and what is considered a foreign invader, worthy of attacking.

Antibodies are what our immune system makes to attack foreign invaders, be it a bacterium, virus or parasite. And of course one thing we take for granted is that our immune system CAN tell friend (or self) from foe.

For those with HLA DQ2 or DQ8 genes, a confusion occurs where the antibodies produced are unable to discern normal parts of the body from invaders and an attack on self ensues.

In celiac disease the small intestine is attacked and in diabetes the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin are the site of attack.

HLA DQ2 and DQ8 genes not only involved in celiac disease and type 1 diabetes, but also other autoimmune diseases.

While this may sound very fatalistic – meaning that if you have these genes you’re “doomed to suffer”, that is not the case. Many people who have these genes never go on to develop these diseases.

And that opens the door to an area that I am currently fascinated by: gene expression and epigenetics (epi- means above and this field delves into how and why genes get turned on and off). Simply because you have a gene is no guarantee that gene will “turn on” and express its negative tendencies.

While it’s a work in progress, many researchers believe that the integrity or health of the small intestine and a healthy population of probiotics therein could very well be at the root of genetic expression, especially as it relates to celiac and gluten sensitivity.

Stay tuned on that point. I am busily researching and doing some testing of my own, but I can tell you that the research that has been done is quite exciting.

Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect

2 comments:

William Trumbower said...

Vicki Thank you for your wonderful blog and book. My younger sister is a celiac. We both have the HLA DQ-2 genetic type. I was nursed for almost a year, she was nursed for 4 months. I have eliminated gluten for the past 3 years and feel well. I attended my high-school reunion last year and had pizza and beer with my friends. I had bloody stools for a week! Keep up the good work.

Ravi said...

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