A new study revealed that a child with type 1 diabetes went into complete remission and remained that way for 20 months (perhaps more, but that was the duration of the study) on a gluten-free diet. No insulin was required and his blood values were normal.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. By that is meant that one’s immune system mistakenly attacks a body part instead of a disease causing organism such as a bacteria, virus or parasite. The immune system is designed to protect the body from foreign invaders, it is certainly not designed to attack the body itself.
Yet, in the case of over 100 different autoimmune diseases, that’s exactly what happens. In diabetes the pancreas is the target, in celiac disease the small intestine bears the brunt of destructive immune forces, in rheumatoid arthritis it is the joints that are under attack, etc, etc.
Research has known for some time that there is a strong correlation between type 1 diabetes (typically diagnosed in children) and celiac disease. In fact the genetic components of both diseases seem to share genes. The correlation is so strong that some researchers feel that it is prudent to rule out celiac disease in type 1 diabetics.
Unfortunately I have found that all too often it is the diabetes and its treatment with insulin that gets center stage and celiac or gluten intolerance is either not tested or, even when found, is not given the attention it deserves.
I still remember two cases where the parent of the child stated that a gluten free diet was just ‘too much’ to cope with considering all that diabetes involved, diet-wise. While I appreciate that it’s not an easy lifestyle, I think if these parents had the study that we’re about to discuss to hand they might have been more willing to adopt a gluten-free diet.
Here are the specifics of the study:
Published just days ago in the British Medical Journal (June 21, 2012) from authors Sildorf SM, Fredheim S, Svensson J, and Buschard K out of Copenhagen University Hospital , the article was titled “Remission without insulin therapy on gluten-free diet in a 6-year old boy with type 1 diabetes mellitus”.
The patient was a boy aged 5 years and 10 months who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes but was not diagnosed with celiac disease. Despite a negative celiac test he was started on a gluten-free diet and within 2 to 3 weeks had no need for insulin. This is rather astonishing and certainly the only ‘treatment’ he was receiving was a gluten-free diet.
A lab test called Hemoglobin A1c was very high upon initial diagnosis, consistent with diabetes. With the addition of a gluten-free diet that number dropped to within normal range and stabilized, once again without any insulin.
Evaluated at the 16 month mark after initiating the gluten free diet, and again at the 20 month mark, the young boy was still completely stable with no need for insulin. The authors note that a gluten-free diet is completely safe and without side effects – That’s for sure. Other than the great side effect of stabilizing (can we say reversing?) diabetes!
The researchers summation was that a gluten-free diet has prolonged remission of diabetes in this patient and they recommend further trials be initiated.
This research is just a dream come true for me. The problem is finding these newly diagnosed children and then educating their parents and doctors. And the child in this study didn’t even have a positive celiac test.
Do realize that celiac testing is not perfect and due to its lack of sensitivity it can often miss the disease. So too there is gluten intolerance, which despite what some may think, I find to be related to autoimmune disease.
So while we do have a bit of an uphill battle as far as education goes, if we could get some pediatricians and endocrinologists to look at this data we could really make an impact.
Have you had any experience with this personally? I’d love to hear from you.
Also I would like to ask you to spread this information far and wide if you will. Imagine how beautiful it would be to ‘catch’ a child newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and reverse/stabilize it with a simple dietary change?
I truly believe it is possible (certainly the above study shows that) and the more it occurs the more likely we are to have clinicians adopt a policy of trying a gluten-free diet in these at-risk children. A gluten-free diet certainly poses no harm and when compared to the devastating effects of diabetes, I think we can all agree that the gluten-free diet sounds like an ideal treatment.
I hope this information was helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions.
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To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the e-Book: “Gluten Intolerance – What you don’t know may be killing you!”