Celiac disease is not exactly a household term. About 3 million Americans have celiac disease. Although that doesn't sound like a lot, undiagnosed celiac disease results in serious side effects. May is Celiac Awareness Month and we want to help get out the 411 on the disease and its symptoms.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the small intestine in response to gluten. The body literally attacks the small intestine, damaging its lining when gluten is eaten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye and is in just about everything. The small intestine is where food is further broken down and nutrients are absorbed. If the lining of the small intestine is damaged nutrients cannot be properly absorbed, and this may lead to malabsorption.
What To Look For
One of the reasons that celiac disease is not diagnosed is because the symptoms not only occur in the gastrointestinal system but outside as well. People with celiac disease often struggle with abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The GI symptoms alone could be a few different things, but when you add other symptoms like headache, fatigue and joint pain, it can be hard to identify. We are so quick to self diagnose and attempt to treat GI upset over the counter, we may not even notice overlapping symptoms. If you have symptoms that sound like celiac disease make an appointment at Associates In Digestive Health with one of our knowledgeable physicians for evaluation. Celiac disease can be diagnosed with a blood test or with biopsy. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and see if you should be tested for celiac disease.
What To Do
If you feel like your symptoms are consistent with celiac disease, don't stop eating gluten until you talk with your doctor. A change in your dietary intake could affect the testing. Keeping a food diary with corresponding symptoms may be helpful to have when talking with your doctor. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease you are sort of in luck! Now that being “gluten free” is much more common, you can easily find gluten free foods in stores and on menus. If you struggle with a gluten free diet, you may benefit from meeting with a dietitian.