Gluten Fingerprints
Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO
Monday, February 23, 2015
by: Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO

Section: Digestion

About Dr. Jacob Schor

Jacob Schor ND, FABNO, is a graduate of National College of Naturopathic Medicine and now practices in Denver. He served as president to the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and is now on the board of directors of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is recognized as a Fellow by the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology. He serves on the editorial board for the International Journal of Naturopathic Medicine. In 2008, he was awarded the Vis Award by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. His writing appears often in Naturopathy Digest and Naturopathic Doctor News and Review.
My colleague Anne Marie Lambert, ND, taught me something interesting while I was at the yearly Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncAnp) conference, Valentine's weekend, in Arizona. It isn’t related to cancer or any of the conference topics, but it struck me as curious and worth passing along. Ann Marie and I were staring at a platter of chocolate cupcakes at a buffet dinner at CTCA’s Goodyear hospital when Anne Marie commented that just looking at all the gluten in those cupcakes was making her fingerprints itch. I on the other hand was simply doing like Pavlov’s dogs and starting to drool. (This was a dinner in honor of Davis Lamson, ND, a dinner at which the plan was that I would present him with an award for his lifetime achievement in naturopathic oncology education, that is I would have if he had remembered to attend. But that’s another story.)

In response to my query asking for clarification about this comment, she explained that there is an odd and rarely mentioned sign of celiac disease; the disease apparently changes a person’s fingerprints. not be surprised if during an office visit we pull out an inkpad and start rolling your fingers...

To back up her seemingly outlandish claim, Dr. Lambert referenced an article published in a 1970 issue of the British Medical Journal by David, Ajdukiewicz and Read.[1] They had examined the fingerprints of 73 patients with diagnosed celiac disease and reported that 63 of these patients had abnormalities in contrast to only three out of 486 non-celiac control patients. While this study sounds rather definitive, we should mention that in a letter to the editor, published a year later in 1971, McCrae and colleagues from Edinburgh reported that they were unable to reproduce these findings. They had examined fingerprints from children with treated and untreated celiac disease.[2] In the first study the average age of participants was 35 years old, while the second study was conducted on children, ages not specified. Perhaps this explains the difference in results.

In this second study, 23 children with biopsy proven celiac disease, six of who were untreated and 12 who had undergone long term gluten free treatment and had no symptoms of disease were included along with 25 normal children and 18 children with cystic fibrosis. None of the samples showed the ridge atrophy described in the original David paper. It should be noted that in this 1971 study rather than using a simple ink roll technique to obtain prints cellophane was used, at least the infants in this group, to obtain prints.

Dr. Lambert tells me that she has been using this technique for seven years and feels that it has been a useful and reliable method to diagnosis gluten sensitivity. In particular she thinks of using this fingerprint test for individuals with symptoms of celiac disease who have had negative results on the blood tests for the disease, especially people with blood type O. The theory is that a lectin in the wheat causes chronic inflammation in the intestine that may actually not be celiac. Thus, I suppose this might be a pseudo-celiac, still autoimmune gut inflammation but not technically celiac. There seem to be a lot of people in this boat: the “wheat bothers me tons but I don’t have celiac” people that we see every week at the office. I suppose it’s time to fingerprint them.

Dr. Lambert tells me that she first heard about this test from Peter D’Adamo, ND (of the Blood Type Diet books and franchise).[3] She tells me that she usually sees significant improvement in ridge height after a six-month period on a low gluten diet.

Maybe this isn’t true celiac disease after all, and perhaps it is something else. It’s interesting to think about this, as one must assume that something that irritates the interior workings of the body enough to affect fingerprints, must be making a real stew of things down in those intestines. So don’t be surprised if during an office visit we pull out an inkpad and start rolling your fingers. You may be about to join an experiment.

  1. Br Med J. 1970 Dec 5;4(5735):594-6. Fingerprint changes in coeliac disease. David TJ, Ajdukiewicz AB, Read AE.
  2. Br Med J. 1971 Jul 10;3(5766):109-10. Fingerprint changes in coeliac disease. McCrae WM, Sandor G, Sangani AP, Stalker R.
  3. Peter D'Adamo, ND, blog.
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