Final Project Research Paper
Celiac disease is an allergy to a protein called gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye, as well as everything processed with them or on the same machinery. Many people in the U.S. are finding out they have Celiac disease or other health issues caused by the protein gluten, sometimes being labeled as gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant. The existence of such issues is an example of food and agriculture and what the causes and consequences of changes in the global distribution of economic activities.
Until the advent of agriculture, human beings survived by hunting and gathering food. Their diets were based off meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and other things that could be foraged or killed with a spear. After the agricultural revolution, humans were able to grow foods rather than look for them, and the human diet shifted towards massive grain consumption. This new system of food production allowed many hunters and gathers to stay home and develop ideas about art, religion, etc. Prominent grains were rice, corn, and of course, wheat, barley, and rye, the three gluten laden objects of suffering for everyone with Celiac disease.
Not much is known about how Celiac disease began or when it started. The current school of thought is that it is an inherited allergy from your parents, somewhere in your DNA. If one of your parents has Celiac disease, your chances of having it are much higher. Other researchers suggest feeding infants solid foods to early can cause Celiac disease. In the 1800s, a doctor in England labeled children with Celiac disease and attempted to cure them by placing them on a strict diet of meat and sliced toast, devoid of all fruits and vegetables. None of the children were able to stay on the diet. During World War II, the Netherlands did not have adequate distribution of wheat. During this time, the child mortality rate dropped. However, after World War II ended the Dutch were able to resume their regular cuisine, the child mortality rate rose back up to where it had been before the war. Today, more is known about Celiac disease due to far better medical technology than what was in the past. However, I myself had severe medical issues for years, and the doctors I saw never figured out I had Celiac disease. I didn’t find out the cause of my issues until I was about 19, when I googled gluten allergies after a friend’s family suggested I may have been gluten intolerant, like their daughter was.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the gluten molecules cause the body to go haywire and attack the small intestine, destroying the precious villi within the digestive tract. Without these villi, the body cannot absorb precious nutrients and is harshly affected by dairy products. Symptoms of Celiac disease include chronic diarrhea, swollen belly, pain, failure the thrive, weight loss, constipation, short stature, delayed puberty, ADHD, neurological problems, headaches, lack of muscle coordination, anemia, loss of bone density, softening of bones, itchy, blistering skin rash, damage to dental canal, fatigue, nervous system injury, numbness of body parts, problems with balance, join pain, reduced functioning of the spleen, and acid reflux and heartburn. The only known treatment for Celiac disease is to go on a gluten free diet, meaning that any products made with, derived from, or processed on the same machinery as wheat, barley, rye, (and oats, since they are almost always on the same machinery as the previous three) are strictly forbidden. It is also suggested that newly diagnosed people go without dairy for many months to allow their stomach to heal. I can tell you that avoiding gluten is far easier said than done, and if I had a nickel for every time someone else got me sick when they thought they were cooking gluten free, I would have many nickels. There is also a lot of misinformation out there, making people who do not have Celiac disease either ignorant or misinformed about the suffering of others. Things like regular M&Ms and even pepper have made me sick. Undiagnosed Celiac disease can lead to malnutrition, loss of calcium or bone density, infertility or miscarriage, lactose intolerance, and cancer.
Today, some manufacturing companies are producing gluten free foods like bread, cereal, cookies, pasta, etc. And there are other companies that will label allergens on their products. Sadly, many manufacturers do not, which causes people to get sick because the people buying it (like a child’s parents or someone’s significant other) simply don’t know. The only way to help people with Celiac disease is to spread the word, educate everyone! You most likely do not have it, but you likely do know someone who is suffering. I was 19 when I finally learned I had it, despite my numerous trips to the hospitals and doctor’s offices. And the sad thing is… Finding out is as easy as one google search.