It’s estimated that about one out of every 133 Americans have celiac disease. And more than 80% of these cases are not diagnosed.
Celiac disease is a digestive condition triggered by eating gluten, found mainly in breads, pastas and many other foods containing wheat, barley and rye. If you have celiac disease and eat foods with gluten, you will experience an immune reaction in the small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients.
Unfortunately celiac disease has no typical symptoms. Most people with celiac have general complaints such as:
- Intermittent diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
Sometimes people with celiac disease have no gastrointestinal symptoms. Other symptoms can imitate other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastric ulcers, Crohn’s disease and anemia. The condition could also include less obvious symptoms including joint pain, irritability, depression, mouth sores or upset stomach.
Your doctor can diagnose celiac disease through a blood test which can detect higher than normal levels of certain antibodies. Your doctor may also confirm a diagnosis by collecting a sample of the small intestine for testing.
Currently there is no treatment that can cure celiac disease, and the exact cause of the disease is unknown. However, there are changes in your diet that you can make to help you manage the disease. It’s crucial that you avoid foods that contain gluten including:
- Graham flour
- Spelt (form of wheat)
- Cross contaminated oats
Once you have removed gluten from your diet, inflammation in your small intestine will begin to subside, usually within a few weeks. You may feel better within a few days even though. For more on how to manage celiac, contact one of our dietitians who can meet with you.