Individuals with celiac disease have to be careful with the food that they eat. Their autoimmune condition prevents them from eating many pastries, pastas and some processed foods because their body negatively reacts to gluten found in grains.

Researchers from the University of Alberta, however, have come up with a way to help individuals with celiac disease with a natural supplement that they developed from the yolks of chicken eggs. The supplement works by preventing gliadin from being absorbed.

 Gliadin is a class of protein that people with celiac disease have trouble digesting.  It is the component of gluten that damages the absorptive surface of the small intestine.

When a person suffering from celiac disease takes the supplement, the antibodies present in the egg yolk coat gluten as it passes through the digestive tract so it does not stimulate the sensitive gluten receptors that are found in the small intestine.

"This supplement binds with gluten in the stomach and help to neutralize it, therefore providing defence to the small intestine, limiting the damage gliadin causes," said study researcher Hoon Sunwoo. "It is our hope that this supplement will improve the quality of life for those who have celiac disease and gluten intolerance."

The pill needs to be taken five minutes before eating and it can work for up to two hours, during which a person with celiac disease may enjoy beer, pizza and similar foods without worry.

The researchers said that the supplement is not a treatment that can cure celiac but it can offer a way to improve the quality of life of the patient.  The supplement may help spare celiac disease sufferers from symptoms associated with consumption of gluten such as fatigue, bloating, anemia and headaches.

The supplement will undergo an efficacy trial next year and if everything goes well, it could become available in Canada within three years and eventually be rolled out in the U.S. and Europe with the researchers already have partnerships for getting the supplement on the market.

It is estimated that about 1 percent of the American population has celiac disease, 83 percent of whom are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.  The condition can lead to other disorders such as reduced bone density, infertility, cancers and neurological disorders. Celiac disease currently has no pharmaceutical cure so sufferers need to adopt a gluten-free diet.

Photo: Alan Levine | Flickr 

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