We are ramping up for a new study for people with Diagnosed Celiac disease which is also called "sprue". It should be a great study as this is a disease of the immune system that affects more than 3 million people in the USA! As with any new study, I try to do my research so I am up to date on the disease in question and during my reading it was referred to as Sprue but nowhere in the literature was it explained why. So like all good researchers with a question, I GOOGLED it! Funny thing was, I found lots of articles about the disease and the gluten free diet sufferers must follow but nothing about why it is called sprue! I also found the definition of sprue which is a manufacturing term meaning the channels used to pour liquid metal into a mold. Ok, I thought, what does that have to do with a small intestine disease that causes its victims to become malnourished?! After much searching, I learned a lot about the disease and finally found out how it became to be known as Sprue. Here's what I learned:
1. Explanation of the condition: Celiac Disease (Sprue) causes damage to the lining of the small intestine by damaging villi (tiny absorption hair like structures in the lining of the intestine) and prevents them from absorbing nutrients/food essentials that keep us healthy.
2. Why it happens: The damage occurs when the individual affected eats something containing gluten (a protein found in wheat and related grains such as rye and barley). The person's own immune system that damages the villi as it reacts to the gluten because it thinks the gluten is a threat to the body (like a virus or parasite) and tries to kill it.
3. Who is affected: The cause of why this starts is unknown but with careful documentation, a few patterns have emerged. First, the disease can affect any age and can go undiagnosed depending on the severity of symptoms. It does however run in families so if someone in your family has it you are more likely to have it too. It also affects more women than men which is common in most autoimmune diseases. It also affects more Caucasians and those of European decent.
4. Found more often with other common diseases: People who have the following disease are also more likely to have Sprue: Diabetes type 1 (insulin dependent), Autoimmune disorders (RA, Lupus), Addison Disease (President Kennedy had this), Down's Syndrome, Intestinal Cancers, Lactose Intolerance, and Thyroid disease.
5. Last but not least after much digging, why Celiac Disease is called Sprue! It was first described by Dr. William Hillary in 1759 while he was in Barbados. The European settlers who came to these lands were afflicted by this disease that caused severe diarrhea and is now called Tropical Sprue. The Tropical version is caused by an infection where Gluten Sprue is not. The description of the disease we now call Sprue was actually described by Dr. Ketelaer, a Dutch physician, in 1669 but was called Sprouw (scholars think Dr. Hillary translated this into an English version of the word for "Sprue"). He observed a wasting illness with diarrhea in Holland which now is thought to be the first documentation of the Gluten reaction we now know as Celiac disease/Sprue.
So there you have it-took a lot of digging to understand why this strange word is associated with the disease but you can win a lot of money on Jeopardy if it is a final question! This looks to be an interesting study and with 1 in every 133 people affected by Celiac disease, it can also be very helpful to a lot of people! Are you affected by this disease or know someone who is? Is it hard to follow a Gluten free diet? My next blog will be taking about the gluten free diet and what all those symbols on Wegman's products mean!
Stay tuned for that Blog and to our current study listing for the description of the study and admission criteria very soon!!!