Covid, celiac, & fear mongering

It has been 93 days since the first reported case of Covid 19 in the USA. Ninety-three days is not a long time. I’ll even give since they found the disease in early December adds 40 days or so, giving the world approximately 130 days in dealing with this new virus. We have a lot of unknowns with Covid-19. Scientists are constantly learning and updating information as they gain more and more information. They know the RNA sequence of the disease, basic disease progression, and mechanisms of illness within the body.

Specifically there are even more unknowns about celiac disease and Covid-19. We know a lot but are still making discoveries on a regular basis about the disease.

I know when the Covid started to get serious. They started talking about those with autoimmune diseases being more at risk than the regular population, I freaked out. I voraciously tried to find more information about celiac and whether Covid would affect those with celiac more. I had a fleeting thought about consuming gluten to get my immune system fired up ready to fight this thing. It is a terrible idea and should not be attempted. I was desperate for information.

Now, information is starting to trickle out. Scientists are making educated guesses. Heck, I’ve even made some guesses after reading information about the Covid and cytokines. In Covid, people are being killed by the out of control immune response or cytokine storm. When a celiac ingests gluten, the symptoms are caused by the rapid rise of cytokines flooding the system with the peak of the reaction happening 2-4 hours after gluten ingestion. Anway, in my little brain the two are related but we don’t know.

BeyondCeliac has been the go to information source for me for Covid related information. They even comment on my idea that the cytokine release in celiac and Covid are not the same – they specifically say, “A cytokine storm would be like water coming out of a fire hose, while cytokine activation in celiac disease would be more like water coming out of a faucet. ” While this may be true, what stops the cytokine activation in celiac from getting out of control. Note, there is NO evidence of a cytokine storm ever reported in celiac disease. There is evidence of a celiac crisis, but is rare and related to severe malnutrition based on untreated celiac rather than an episode of gluten ingestion from someone diagnosed with celiac. So, for the most part, having celiac doesn’t represent immediate life threatening implications.

BeyondCeliac posted additional information yesterday about Covid and celiac indicating, “The bottom line is that we don’t have any direct evidence that people with celiac disease are at increased risk of developing severe consequences of COVID-19, but there is theoretical concern based on studies of other infections (including viral infections such as herpes zoster, an influenza). These prior studies show that people with celiac disease are at slightly increased risk of these conditions, or of more severe manifestations of these conditions. At the same time, it is reassuring that these increased risks are small, and so do not justify any additional precautions separate from those of the general population.”

Some people are saying that by posting the information above, BeyondCeliac has engaged in fear mongering. They argue that this information is not final and may or may not be accurate. We have information from other diseases and how someone with celiac reacts. Will it apply directly to Covid? Dunno, but it is a fair guess.

Again, we have only known about this disease for at the longest 130 days. There are only approximately 1.75m diagnosed with celiac in the US out of 350m people. While celiac affects us significantly, we are a very small percentage of the whole. So, the science specifically related to covid and celiac are going to take some time. They are going to try to save everyone first and then will look specifically at particular diseases as time progresses. Let’s give scientists a little more time to figure things out.

For me, I’m voraciously reading everything I can about celiac and Covid. I’m curious and a little worried about this whole pandemic. Right now, my family is safe and we are puttering along. Some days are good and some days we just try not to get on each other’s nerves. I’m still worried about my gastro appointment tomorrow. I’ve got lots of things to worry about and I’m just trying to get by.

As this pandemic continues, please wash your hands, practice social distancing to the best of your abilities, wear a mask in public, and follow the instructions from your local public health officials.

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