Alicia Woodward: Hi! I am Alicia Woodward, editor of 'Living Without,' the world's leading magazine for people with food allergies and sensitivities.
Today I would like to talk with you about celiac disease. Celiac disease is a genetically linked, autoimmune disorder, characterized by a heightened sensitivity to gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
The disease is more common than most people think, affecting approximately 3 million in the United States, which are about 1 in 133 people.
Up to 95% of Americans who have it remain undiagnosed. Awareness of the disease in the United States is increasing, but it still takes an average of 8-9 years to be diagnosed. This may be because the symptoms range from obvious to very subtle and they vary by person.
Common symptoms include gastrointestinal discomfort such as abdominal pain, gas cramps and bloating, diarrhea or constipation or both, reflux and unexplained weight loss. In young children, two other well-known symptoms are failure to thrive an abdominal distention.
In older children, common symptoms are short stature, anemia and delayed puberty. Less common symptoms include migraine, seizures, tingling and numbness in the hands or feet, skin rashes, canker sores, clumsiness, foggy thinking, fatigue, unexplained weight gain and even dementia. Celiac is tested through blood screening.
To make diagnosis even more challenging, many patients have no symptoms at all. These patients have either silent or latent forms of the disease. Silent celiacs have obvious intestinal damage, discovered by biopsy of the small intestine via Endoscopy, while latent celiacs do not, but both show positive results of the disease in blood screening test.
The only treatment for this inherited condition is the strict lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet. If left untreated, celiac disease causes harmful information and also damages the lining of the small intestine affecting and limiting nutrient absorption.
Over time the condition leads to malnourishment and all the accompanying systems. That's one reason why celiac disease is linked to conditions like anemia, osteoporosis, osteopenia, Vitamin K deficiency and infertility, as well as other auto-immune disorders like Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Although there is no cure for celiac disease, it can be successfully treated through simple dietary changes and that's good news.