Good News Celiac’s, You Can Have Your Cake
And you might be able to eat it too.
For those of you with Celiac disease, I have the utmost respect for you. Every time you go out, every time you meet a friend for lunch, or a loved one for dinner, or take your kids to get breakfast, you have to be on your best behavior. If you do decide to be less vigilant, you could be having a long date with the toilet, which, if you were in the midst of a bad date, wouldn’t be the worst occurrence in the world.
Most doctors’ advice: Stick to your gluten-free diet long term. Outside of that, there really isn’t much someone with Celiac can do. For some, they have no problem never coming within 10 feet of gluten again, but some, I’m sure, would love to be able to have a bite of cake, or go out to dinner without worrying about cross-contamination with the rice. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a product that could allow someone with Celiac to enjoy these tiny pleasures the rest of us take for granted?
State of the Art
There are currently several supplements marketed to assist with gluten digestion. Thanks to our friends of bacterial and fungal origin, we have access to enzymes that are potentially able to break down gluten. However, they haven’t shown excellent results for those with Celiac (1).
What are some of the problems? Well for one, some enzymes can’t survive through our stomach. The human stomach is one of the most acidic environments on the planet (roughly a pH of 1.5–2.5 for those of you counting at home), and because of that, not much can survive it. Secondly, others are deactivated by pepsin, a molecule also present in our stomach that helps with protein digestion. Talk about a stomach ache for gluten enzymes!
Alas, one was created that was able to survive in more acidic environments, called Prolyl Endopeptidase, derived from fungus. Unfortunately, early studies showed that, along with not breaking down gluten in those with Celiac, it wasn’t able to break down gluten in healthy people (1). Human saliva may contain gluten degrading activity thanks to the microbes in our mouth! These enzymes have yet to be studied in humans, but keep your eyes peeled for Rothia Bacteria Subtilisins.
On the pharmaceutical end, a Japanese company is working on several gluten-degrading enzymes, potentially allowing those with Celiac disease to tolerate a certain amount of gluten.
This is HUGE for those with Celiac. As we previously mentioned, they currently have to be hypervigilant when going out to eat. Even so-called “gluten-free” foods such as oats, potatoes, rice, may contain trace amounts of gluten, enough to trigger the immune system in those with Celiac. Remember that date with the toilet?
How’s the research been going? In the lab, meaning not on humans, the enzyme degraded more than 99% of gluten within 10 minutes (2). How about with humans? It’s currently in phase 1 of a possible 3 (phase 1 is all about testing the safety and pharmacokinetics of the drug in humans), and looks promising. Not only was it well tolerated, but it also resulted in gluten breakdown ranging from 97% to 99% in complex meals. Complex meals is an important variable, as most of us don’t just go to the store and say, “I’ll take one bag of gluten please!” No! We eat gluten as a part of other things: bread with eggs, donuts with coffee, pasta with meatballs, a burger with a bun on it, etc.
The enzyme product is called TAK-062 (the name of the company is Takeda Pharmaceuticals). How does it work? According to the company’s website: “It is designed to degrade the immune-reactive parts of gluten before they exit the stomach in order to prevent the immune response to gluten and eliminate the symptoms and intestinal damage caused by Celiac disease.” It basically makes gluten easy to digest. The immune system doesn’t like proteins when they’re maldigested, especially gluten. So making it fully digestible means the immune system, hopefully, won’t attack it.
As of now, it seems the best course of action for those with Celiac, is still the gluten-free diet. Keep telling waitstaff at restaurants that you have Celiac, so they can work to avoid any potential exposure. From a clinical perspective, there are several strategies that one with Celiac can undertake to support their small intestinal lining, the part of the body that gets attacked and destroyed in Celiac. If you’re interested in learning more about these support strategies, and working with a doctor who has experience working with Celiac patients, check out The HIVE Natural Health Center.
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As always, Trust in Your Gut.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for educational purposes only, and are not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Do not apply any of the information in this article without first speaking with your doctor.
- Wei G, Helmerhorst EJ, Darwish G, Blumenkranz G, Schuppan D. Gluten Degrading Enzymes for Treatment of Celiac Disease. Nutrients. 2020;12(7):2095. Published 2020 Jul 15. doi:10.3390/nu12072095
- Pultz IS, Hill M, Vitanza JM, et al. Gluten Degradation, Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Tolerability of TAK-062, an Engineered Enzyme to Treat Celiac Disease. Gastroenterology. 2021;161(1):81–93.e3. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2021.03.019