The Emptying of a Celiac Patient’s Wallet
Annmarie Rounds- Sorensen
Windsor Central School District
Celiac disease is a complex,
gastrointestinal (GI) disease that is triggered by the ingestion of gluten. Textbook
symptoms are exhaustion, GI pain, anxiety, and depression. Thyroid disease,
thyroid cancer, intestinal cancer, and psychosis are the extreme consequences
of not abiding by a gluten free diet. Eating gluten free has become trendy, so
naturally cereal companies have made it a priority to money gouge consumers. Patients
with Celiac have become collateral in the race to the top, and companies have
no regard for the consequences of making it near impossible for gluten free
food to be equally accessible as regular food. Inflated prices and limited availability
make it difficult for patients with Celiac to adhere to a strict gluten free
diet. Taking advantage of people who cannot control their situation is
unethical and has to stop.
Keywords: Celiac, Artificial Sugar, Gluten Free,
Capitalism, Anxiety, Depression, Thyroid Disorder
The Emptying of a Celiac Patient’s
You’re just tired. Are you
sleeping at night? You don’t drink enough water. Your course load is too heavy.
You need to take a load off. Do you really need to take time off for that? Why
do you have all these problems? Can’t you eat just a little gluten? OMG, my
friend’s sister has that and sometimes she eats a piece of pizza here and
there. Oh, you’ll grow out of it. OMG, I would LOVE to go gluten free! I have
Celiac and I don’t eat gluten free, but how much damage can it really cause?
Someone with an auto immune disease, like Celiac, is all
too familiar with these questions and generalizations. Celiac is a violent auto
immune disease that destroys the gastrointestinal tract, causes mental health
issues, and empties a Celiac patient’s wallet. Cereal companies in the United
States take advantage of the constant demand for gluten free products. Prices
are inflated for smaller portions with higher sugar and carbohydrate levels.
Celiac patients cannot control that they have this disease and that there is
only one treatment, but they are exploited every time they walk into a grocery
store. The industrialization of food production has destroyed the integrity of
food in the United States
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune
disease characterized by a patient’s intolerance to gluten containing proteins
such as wheat, barley, and rye. Symptoms range from mild discomfort upon
consumption to extreme exhaustion, constipation, and thyroid disease (Brietzke,
Cerqueira, Mansur, & McIntyre, 2018, p. 369). Celiac is an auto
immune disease that inflames the immune system when triggered. So along with
gluten, patients are advised to avoid foods like eggs, dairy, and potatoes (Huan, et
al., 2011, p. 74).
Wheat based products are a
staple in western diets because it’s cheap (Whelan & Singh, 2011, p. 479). As is sugar and
artificial sweeteners. Energy dense meals, meaning foods filled with sugar and
gluten, are the main contributors to the obesity epidemic in the United States (Maioli, et
al., 2016, p. 169).
People flock towards zero calorie foods without realizing the damage it causes.
T- Cells are a type of white blood cell that fights extreme infections.
Proteins found in gluten and the artificial sugars penetrate the membrane of
these T- Cells, killing them. These T- Cells are essential for preventing intestinal
blunting, which is the atrophy of the intestinal villi. This is the destruction
of the part of our intestines that absorbs essential nutrients (Escudero-Herna?ndez,
Plaza-Izurieta, Garrote, Ramo?n Bilbao, & Arranz, 2017, p. 73). This is why a
common symptom of undiagnosed Celiac patients is malabsorption that presents as
exhaustion and extreme weight loss (Brietzke, Cerqueira, Mansur, & McIntyre, 2018, p. 369). The T- Cells are
also essential to reduce immune inflammation which causes joint pain (Huan, et
al., 2011, p. 112).
The only viable treatment for
celiac disease is a gluten free diet (Margolskee, et al., 2013, p. 3). When patients don’t
abide by this treatment they risk complications like thyroid cancer, intestinal
lymphomas, and malnutrition (2013, p. 3). The risks grow
greater the longer it is left untreated, and when patients have blood work done
show now laboratory abnormalities despite being diagnosed with Celiac later (2013, p. 3).
Patients are often misdiagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or somatic
manifestations of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, depression, and
anxiety (Brietzke, Cerqueira, Mansur, & McIntyre, 2018, p. 369). And when patients
to eat gluten free experience exacerbated symptoms when they try to reintroduce
gluten to their diets (2018, p. 372). On the other side
of that, improvements were twice as fast when removing gluten when milk is also
removed dairy products. Despite the under diagnosis of Celiac, it has been
determined that 1 in every 120-300 people have Celiac disease (Huan, et
al., 2011, p. 112).
Celiac Disease has shown a that
“immune-inflammatory mechanisms are involved in mood disorders and
pathophysiology,” (Brietzke, Cerqueira, Mansur, & McIntyre, 2018, p. 371). The malabsorption
of nutrients leads to the depletion of monoamines like serotonin and dopamine
in the brain (2018, p. 371). This depletion also
creates inexplicable, but crippling anxiety, in patients with Celiac (2018, p. 371). So, a patient with Celiac have a
higher risk for developing schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder, and
bipolar depression than the general population (2018, p. 373). These are textbook
manifestations of Celiac, but the medical community has found it easier to
shell of the common symptom as completely unrelated (2018, p. 371). A study was done on
schizophrenia reported in the Neuroscience and Behavioral Review (NBHR), and this
is where the conclusion that removing milk from the diet was found. It was also
deduced that all of the patients who removed gluten from their diets were able
to be released to unlocked psychiatric facilities (2018, p. 368). Also, patients who
have mental illnesses, but not Celiac, are predisposed to gluten intolerance (2018, p. 373). Such a seemingly minuscule part of
someone’s life is the cause of a debilitating and alienating mental disorder.
Dementia, and strokes are common with patients who do not abide by the
prescribed treatment as well (Alahmed, et al., 2017, p. 2786).
Doctors are quick to dismiss
patients with the hefty diagnosis of depression or schizophrenia. These are
diseases with heavy stigmas, but there is a solution to their problems that is
biggest warning a patient with Celiac is given is that thyroid diseases like
hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer are risk when a strict gluten free diet isn’t
10.8% of patients who don’t eat
gluten free test positive for malignant thyroid cancer (Sun, et al., 2016, p. 2). And 21% of patients
with Celiac tested positive for potentially cancerous thyroid antibodies (2016, p. 2).
The prescence of thyroid disease in patients with Celiac is 7% higher than
other asscociated diseases like Diabetes and Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (2016, p. 2).
Hypothyroidism is also an autoimmune disease that is present in four-times more
people with Celiac than not (2016, p. 9). T- Cells are
produced in the thyroid, so they carry the cancer that can grow in the thyroid
and disseminate through the body (Margolskee, et al., 2013, p. 4). 3 cases of T- Cell
lymphomas were reported in a controlled study of 150 people with Celiac
published in the Biological and Clinical Feature. These 3 patients did not
abide by a gluten free diet, and they died at the hands of cancer that spread
from the thyroid to the intestines via T- Cells (2013, p. 4). This same cancer
can form on the X chromosome in patients with Celiac, making women more
susceptible because they have two (2013, p. 4).
on this evidence, one may think that such a complex, and high-risk disease
would be cheap to treat as the only treatment is a dietary one. If one thought that, they would be very
wrong. For starters, companies like Pillsbury own smaller companies like
General Mills, s so Pillsbury has a direct say in how General Mills produces
food. General Mills is a cereal company that in 2000 was worth 10.5 billion
dollars to Pillsbury, and This is the value of their net profit (Sorkin,
2000, p. A17).
In 2000, the price for one share in Pillsbury stock was 42.55 dollars, where
the general price for one share was 25 dollars (2000, p. A17). This is extremely
inflated, and after analysis, it doesn’t make sense.
Companies like these make
copious amounts of money because they add gluten to their products to increase
volume and improve texture (Brietzke, Cerqueira, Mansur, & McIntyre, 2018, p. 368). Also, according to
the NBHR, “Gluten is routinely added to sauces, processed meats, pastas, baked
goods, noodles, breads, and pastries among others, and also to some drug
fillers,” (2018, p. 370). It’s been reported
that gluten free food is 516% more expensive, and 45% less available than
regular wheat based products (Whelan & Singh, 2011, p. 479). And another study
deduced that determining whether or not something is gluten free reduces the
quality of life for people. This is a seemingly small inconvenience, but
reading through a label and being able to determine if you can eat something
that may or may not make you violently ill stops people from eating out, or
exploring creative options (2011, p. 480). And furthermore,
only 41% of store carry gluten free alternatives to traditionally wheat-based
products (2011, p. 481).
A solution to this problem has
been developed in the United Kingdom. Healthcare providers prescribe gluten
free staples that patients can pick up at dispensaries (2011, p. 481). Gluten free food is
only 310% more expensive un the UK, and this is specifically for foods that
have replaced wheat flour with a substitution. Average products are not
inflated (2011, p. 480). It is possible balance
supply and demand while maintaining a profitable business.
Essentially, gluten is unnecessarily added to
food in the United States to peddle less of the actual product to consumers,
but companies still make a profit. By this logic, selling gluten free food
would be cheaper to manufacture and already has a high demand. It is senseless
and irresponsible to exclude the population afflicted with Celiac Disease by
making their only treatment fundamentally unattainable, especially for families
living in poverty.
Gluten free food is essential
for maintaining good health for someone with Celiac, and is the only treatment.
The popularity of the food sparked the interest of cereal companies, and they
have begun to take advantage of this community for profit. It has been proven
over and over again that it is unnecessary for foods to be five times more
expensive, for gluten to be added to foods, and for there to be limited access
to these products. It has been proven that gluten free food benefits not just
physical health, but mental health which is a growing problem in our society. It’s
detrimental to our population to reserve health foods for the upper class with
no regard for those with Celiac and debilitating mental illnesses who struggle
to stay gluten free and keep money in their wallets.
Alahmed, A. M., Shokri, E. M., NAsser Ayidh, F. A.,
Alotaibi, A. B., Alghamdi, T. M., H Alziyadi, F. B., . . . Hassan, T. H.
(2017, October). Effect of Artificial Sweets on Neurologic Disorders. The
Egyptian Journal of Hospital Medicine, 69(7), 6.
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