The globe-spanning presence of wheat and its exalted status among secular and sacred institutions alike differentiates this food from all others presently enjoyed by humans. Yet the unparalleled rise of wheat as the very catalyst for the emergence of ancient civilization has not occurred without a great price.
While wheat was the engine of civilization’s expansion and was glorified as a “necessary food,” both in the physical (staff of life) and spiritual sense (the body of Christ), those suffering from celiac disease are living testimony to the lesser known dark side of wheat. A study of celiac disease and may help unlock the mystery of why modern man, who dines daily at the table of wheat, is the sickest animal yet to have arisen on this strange planet of ours.
The Celiac Iceberg
Celiac disease (CD) was once considered an extremely rare affliction, limited to individuals of European descent. Today, however, a growing number of studies indicate that celiac disease is found throughout the world at a rate of up to 1 in every 100 persons, which is several orders of magnitude higher than previously estimated.
These findings have led researchers to visualize CD as an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg represents the relatively small number of the world’s population whose gross presentation of clinical symptoms often leads to the diagnosis of celiac disease. This is the classical case of CD characterized by gastrointestinal symptoms, malabsorption and malnourishment.
It is confirmed with the “gold standard” of an intestinal biopsy. The submerged middle portion of the iceberg is largely invisible to classical clinical diagnosis, but not to modern serological screening methods in the form of antibody testing. This middle portion is composed of asymptomatic and latent celiac disease as well as “out of the intestine” varieties of wheat intolerance.
Finally, at the base of this massive iceberg sits approximately 20-30% of the world’s population – those who have been found to carry the HLA-DQ locus of genetic susceptibility to celiac disease on chromosome 6.*
The “Celiac Iceberg” may not simply illustrate the problems and issues associated with diagnosis and disease prevalence, but may represent the need for a paradigm shift in how we view both CD and wheat consumption among non-CD populations.
First let us address the traditional view of CD as a rare, but clinically distinct species of genetically-determined disease, which I believe is now running itself aground upon the emerging, post-Genomic perspective, whose implications for understanding and treating disease are Titanic in proportion.
It Is Not In the Genes, But What We Expose Them To
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