Let's do Some Science!

Originally posted on November 22, 2014

I've seen a couple of articles this week about some advancements in the science of celiac disease.  Yes, believe it or not, there are people out there studying celiac disease.  Strangely, both of the studies I've seen this week are about oats.  Should we, or shouldn't we eat them if we have celiac disease?  Again, that depends on the individual.  

A study at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia has determined that oats can be just as toxic to at least 8% of people with celiac disease as any of the offensive gluten containing grains.  You can read the short article here.

"Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researcher Dr Melinda Hardy said the research was the first of its kind to comprehensively profile immune responses to oats in people with coeliac disease. "The significance of previous studies performed in test tubes was unclear," she said. "By studying people with coeliac disease who had eaten oats, we were able to undertake a detailed profile of the resultant immune response in their blood stream. Our study was able to establish the parts of oat avenins that cause an immune response in people with coeliac disease."

Personally, I can only eat oats very occasionally, like maybe every 6 weeks or so.  Rice as well.  Corn I cannot tolerate at all, ever.  The pseudo grains such as quinoa and buckwheat I can probably count on one had the number of times in a year that I will eat them.  That has more to do with my primal lifestyle rather than tolerance of them however. 

Health Canada has also been researching the effects of oats in the gluten free diet for diagnosed celiacs.  Currently the labeling laws in Canada do not allow oats to be labelled as "gluten free".  They can only state "wheat free, barley free, rye free", and they must undergo testing at the facilities to ensure less than 20ppm (parts per million) of gluten in the finished product.  20ppm is the generally accepted limit iof the maximum amount of gluten a product can contain without causing damage to a celiac's small intestine.  This is true in most countries, though labeling laws will vary (in the US oats can be labelled gluten free for instance).

Here is a long paper at the Health Canada website with a list of studies around the world on the effects of oats in the gluten free diet.

"...However, despite the absence of clinical symptoms, a small fraction of the celiac population, notably children, receiving oats may suffer chronic gut mucosal inflammation that presents a potential risk for future complications. Lastly, a few people with CD seem to be clinically intolerant to oats." 

This may suggest that children with celiac should not eat oats perhaps until they are older and their system can better handle them.  

My suggestion to adults would be to eliminate oats (as well as other non-gluteny grains) for at least one year when first diagnosed.  Grains and legumes are notoriously difficult to digest, so give your intestine time to heal before introducing them.  Then re-introduce some uncontaminated oats in a small serving to see how you react.  Wait a few days, have another serving, see how you react.  Wait a few days, have another serving, see how you react.  It may be an immediate reaction, or could be a cumulative effect, if you will have any reaction at all.  You may be one of the lucky ones who has no reaction to oats, and you can enjoy them whenever you want a nice warm bowl of porridge or a chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookie  :) 


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