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Life After 50
Engaging the 50 plus age group including boomers, seniors and elderly seniors.

COULD YOU HAVE CELIAC DISEASE?

Mar 25, 2015, 7:30 a.m.

By Dr. Carey B. Strom, MD

Many people may suffer from the symptoms of celiac disease for years without even knowing it. Until recently, very few of us even heard about this disease or knew about what it is. If you often get bloated after eating certain gluten-based foods or find yourself running to the bathroom, irritable or tired, you may want to be tested for celiac. By having a clear understanding of what foods to avoid, you may change quality of life.

Celiac disease has been rising in the United States over the last 50 years and manifests by people in many different ways in a variety of symptoms. Celiac is also hereditary and can be passed down in families from generation to generation. Celiac is a chronic condition where there is inflammation of the duodenum (first part of your small intestine) by the consumption of gluten and can prevent absorption of various nutrients. Gluten can come from different proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, oats and grains.

The symptoms of celiac are highly variable and can range from abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss to growth problems in children. Other vague symptoms include fatigue, weakness, bone and joint pain, osteoporosis, skin rash, infertility neurological issues and liver enzyme abnormalities. It is recommended that everybody who suffers from such symptoms to be tested.

Patients are diagnosed by simple blood tests that check for a specific antibodies, and, if positive, the diagnosis would be confirmed by endoscopy and biopsy of the small intestine. All tests for celiac, except genetic tests, must be done while the patient is on a normal diet that contains gluten. If the tests are done with the patient on a gluten-free diet, the test may be falsely negative.

Celiacs’ highest prevalence is in Caucasians mostly from northern Europe such as England, Scotland and Ireland. It is more frequent in females than in males. Individuals that have celiac can also can have diabetes or thyroid disorders.

The only treatment for celiac is avoiding foods that contain gluten. Despite this being quite drastic and life-long, it can change how you live and feel for the rest of your life. Most people cannot do this on their own without the help of an expert dietitian who is well versed at treating celiac patients. However, a gluten-free diet is becoming more and more popular for many reasons and therefore manufacturers are making gluten-free products and most restaurants are offering gluten free alternatives to their menu.

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. By just changing over to a strict gluten-free diet, you may no longer suffer from abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. If you ignore these issues you are at a higher risk for developing cancer of the small bowel and esophagus as well other complications such as fatigue, poor growth, osteoporosis, joint pain, memory difficulties, and an unsteady gait.

Some patients prefer just to be off of gluten without testing. If that is the case with you, I would caution you that being on a truly gluten-free diet can be very restricting, so testing is probably the best approach.

For more information, you can click on www.doctorstrom.com, or contact Dr. Carey B. Strom MD, gastroenterologist, at (310) 246-2520.

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