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Celiac Disease Overview

    • What do you know about celiac disease? It’s estimated that one in 130 Americans suffers from it, equating to 3 million people across all races, ages and genders. An astounding 95 percent of celiacs are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions; 10 years is the average time it takes for someone to be correctly diagnosed.

      Those with celiac disease have a gluten intolerance; it’s not absorbed as it should be in the small intestine. The bad news is that celiac disease can be the root cause for many other health ailments, but the good news is that the cure is very straightforward and doesn’t involve medication: it’s eating a gluten-free diet.

    • Celiac Disease Symptoms

    • One of the reasons celiac disease is so under-diagnosed is that it doesn’t have symptoms of its own, but it can be causing other ailments, such as arthritis, lactose intolerance, dermatitis, irritable bowel, migraine headaches, obesity, osteoporosis and thyroid disorders. A Southern California rheumatologist has found that 30 percent of his patients with psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis can be treated with a gluten-free diet.

      Does this mean you’re a celiac if you suffer from one of the conditions noted above? Certainly not…but it’s definitely something to ask your doctor about if you haven’t been able to find relief from drugs or other prescribed treatments. If you do have celiac disease, and it’s not treated, no course of medicine will help with your symptoms and you run the risk of developing other conditions such as infertility; reduced bone density; neurological disorders; some cancers; iron, folic acid and Vitamin D deficiencies; and other autoimmune diseases.

    • Celiac Disease Diagnosis

    • One way to determine if you have celiac disease is to go on a gluten-free diet and see if your symptoms go away. There are also a couple of blood tests available that test for gluten tolerance, but you must be on a gluten-rich diet when you take them to get accurate results. That means blood work must be done before going gluten-free.

      If the test results are positive, some doctors will recommend that you get a small bowel biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. Because sticking to a gluten-free diet takes some work, you want to ensure you really do have celiac disease.

    • Celiac Disease Treatment

    • As previously noted, there are no pharmaceutical cures for celiac disease; a 100% gluten-free diet is the only existing treatment today. The good news is that the gluten-free marketplace has expanded with better tasting and more affordable products, so if you have celiac disease, you have many food options.

      It does take some diligence to stay away from products that contain gluten (like bread and pasta), but once you see the positive effect it has on your health, you’ll probably be highly motivated to make the effort. I speak from first-hand experience; I felt fatigued all the time until I embarked on a gluten-free diet on January 28, 2010…and I’ve never felt better.

      Dr. Anat Sapan, a board-certified OB/GYN, practices at Sutter Medical Foundation and is on staff at Sutter Solano Medical Center.

    Concerned about gluten intolerance? Download our gluten free diet plan.