This month, we have a guest blog on Celiac Disease, authored by Sybil Nassau, Founder and Branch Manager of the Gluten Intolerance Group of ShorelineEast. It is National Celiac Awareness Month. We hope you find the information below helpful; please contact Sybil for more in depth information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sybil Nassau; Founder & Branch Manager
Gluten Intolerance Group of ShorelineEast
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition affecting 1/100 people in both the US and Europe. It is not a “new” disease as it is mentioned in both English and Greek medical journals going back to the 1200's or even earlier. Despite the history, it is not an easy disease to diagnose as it often masks as many other diseases. There are more than 300 autoimmune conditions where the body attacks itself, including migraines, eczema, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, scleroderma, Type I diabetes, and many more. There are literally hundreds of symptoms including bloating, onstipation and diarrhea, headaches joint aches, body aches, fibromyalgia, tooth discoloration, frequent fractures, and the list goes on.
Many years ago, doctors told parents celiac disease was found only in children and “they would outgrow it.” Today, we know this is not true. One must be born with one or both of the genes for the disease to develop. Only 1 out of 40 with the gene(s) actually develop the active condition, often brought out by a trauma to the body ie, accident or serious illness at any age from early childhood through the 80's. Although there is no cure, management of the condition is far easier than it used to be with more accurate diagnosis by better-trained doctors who specialize in digestive diseases, like celiac.
People often ask why are we seeing and hearing more about celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity; part of the reason may be due to the way grains are grown in the US today, and partly because of early and more accurate diagnosis, especially early diagnosis of children. The longer a person lives with the condition without being diagnosed, the greater the chances for a digestive cancer to develop besides damage to other organs including the brain, heart and lungs. This is why it is called a body-wide condition: when the small intestine cannot properly digest the nutrients in the food we eat, the organs cannot function properly, and a myriad of illnesses can develop. These may include GERD, rheumatoid arthritis, spastic colon, stomach problems and more, so some doctors start prescribing one pill after the other without bothering to find the root cause, which may or may not be celiac disease.
There are several tests involved in the diagnosis of celiac which may include genetic and blood tests; and the one known as the “Gold Standard”, which is an endoscopy of the small intestine to check the condition of the villi, the hair -like projections that line the small intestine and help the digested food to move along. Healthy villi stand up straight (like a shag rug) and do their job; if celiac is present the villi lay down flat like a smooth rug, and thus cannot aid digestion, so the nutrients in the food we eat never get absorbed by the rest of the body. Thus, in children, there is a “failure to thrive”, small stature, poor bone development, discolored teeth, a pot belly and what parents describe as very smelly diarrhea. In teens, they may appear small for their age and suffer behavior problems, often appearing as ADHD children who have trouble focusing and processing information. In adults, they often suffer from brain fog, belly aches, joint aches, severe bloating and much more, often missing many days of work or classes from attacks of painful stomach cramps and unrelenting diarrhea.
While there is much information on the internet concerning celiac, not all of it is true or accurate. There is as much inaccurate information out there as there is accurate-- which is best obtained by joining a local support group and meeting with others who have learned how to live the gluten-free lifestyle with confidence and a sense of adventure. It is not a death sentence. In fact, after a period of recovery which is different for everyone, most people find they are feeling healthier and better than any other time in their lives, and may actually see their doctor just once a year for their annual checkup!
While related symptomatically, non-celiac gluten sensitivity has become the “disease du jour” to be discussed another time.