Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity are no longer rare
Many more restaurants are offering gluten free menu items because celiac (pronounced ‘silly-yak’) disease was once considered rare — what once affected one in 10,000 people now affects one in 144 people. On average, 10 percent of the population deals with this autoimmune disease and 95 percent of those with the disease do not know it yet.
Celiac disease is considered to be the most underdiagnosed common disease today. New research has revealed that this disease can have a broad range of symptoms that can vary with the age of the patient, duration and extent of the disease, and the presence of other conditions.
The usual symptoms include bloating, chronic diarrhea, weight changes and anemia that becomes worse as a person ages. Abdominal pain, gas, nausea, reflux, mouth ulcers, chronic fatigue, bone and joint pain are other common symptoms. Some patients may only have one or two symptoms, such as diarrhea or chronic fatigue. However, many patients may be without symptoms or have entirely different symptoms.
It can occur at any age and often is triggered after a viral infection, surgery, pregnancy or severe stress. It runs in families and if one person deals with it; suspect that another relative may also have it. A large percentage of patients have seen many doctors and have been misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or a whole host of other problems except Celiac.
There are more than 80 autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease occurs when someone’s body attacks its own cells, tissues and/or organs causing damage. Patients with other autoimmune disorders or syndromes are at a higher risk to have celiac disease or to develop it in the future.
However, with a greater awareness of the various symptoms of celiac disease, more research and new blood screening tests (tissue transglutaminase and endomysial antibody tests) more people are finally being diagnosed. The most reliable for diagnosis is the intestinal biopsy. It is very important to get the blood tests and biopsy done BEFORE starting on a gluten-free diet.
Many people do not have celiac disease but may be sensitive to gluten and the treatment is the same. For more information on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, visit gluten.net, celiac.org, celiac.ca, celiac.com, celiaccenter.org or glutenfreediet.ca.
The best and only treatment for this ailment is a gluten-free diet. A person with this disease cannot process the gluten proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, barley and farina. The villi in the small intestine absorb important nutrients. The small intestine is an integral part of the body’s digestion system, but for someone with celiac disease, it cannot function properly when gluten is ingested. Gradually, gluten damages the villi to the point that they are unable to absorb required nutrients and poor health results.
Celiac and gluten sensitivity is no longer a rare disease. The awareness and avoidance of gluten products has helped many disturbed tummies to settle down to enjoying life again. It is not easy in a processed food life-style but it can be done.
May is National Celiac Month. Becoming aware of potential problems can help those who must live a gluten free lifestyle. Gluten is in many foods, as well as, health and beauty products. Ask questions, better safe than sorry.
Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes educator and a registered, licensed dietitian. She supervises a diabetes self-management training program at Aultman-Orrville Hospital in Orrville, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330–684-4776.