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Celiac Disease Sufferers See an End to their Misery

Celiac disease sufferers often endure a life of dietary restrictions, ensuring that no gluten, a product found in many commonly eaten foods//, ever passes their lips.

But this may soon come to an end. Researchers in the Netherlands have found that an enzyme originally developed for commercial food processing -- AN-PEP -- may be able to break down gluten in the stomach before it reaches the small intestine. This information could be vital because the small intestine is where celiac disease originates.

According to the study's lead author, Frits Konig, professor of immunology at Leiden University Medical Center "There is a realistic chance that this enzyme can be used to develop an alternative treatment for celiac disease. It is very difficult to predict if such an enzyme-based treatment would actually be preferred over a gluten-free diet, but at the very least, it would provide patients with the option to occasionally follow a normal diet -- for example, when going out or during other social occasions, times when a gluten-free diet is certainly bothersome.

The results of the research have been published in the online journal American Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology. .

According to Konig about 1 percent of people in the United States and Europe are affected by celiac disease which is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when the body mistakes gluten molecules as foreign invaders to be destroyed. As a result parts of the small intestine are also destroyed along with the gluten moleculesduring the immune system response. This leads to a difficulty for the small intestine to properly absorb nutrients from food causing anemia and vitamin deficiencies. .

Therefore the only solution for avoiding the flare up of this disease would be to avoid gluten completely. However this is not an easy task. As Konig pointed out, "Gluten is a common protein found in wheat and related cereals like barley and rye. This
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