By Margarita Persico
Many people believe that giving up gluten (a protein in wheat, barley, rye, triticale, spelt, kamut (khorasan wheat) and processed with and/or cross contaminated foods such as oats) is the right thing to do. If you suspect you are celiac, it is the right thing to do after you have been diagnosed. Giving up gluten before being diagnosed is the wrong thing to do because it can trigger false test results. If you suspect you are celiac or gluten intolerant, speak with your physician.
What is Celiac Disease and their Symptoms?
“Celiac disease is a chronic inflammatory disease predominantly affecting the small bowel resulting from an immune-mediated intolerance to ingested gluten, the storage proteins of wheat,” according to the celiac disease Center at Columbia University medical center who adds. “Clinical manifestations include diarrhea and numerous other sequelae of malabsorption, non-specific gastrointestinal disturbance, and a host of extraintestinal phenomena, affecting the skin, joints, teeth, nervous system, energy level, and mood.”
Other Celiac symptoms:
It is important to be diagnosed on time. Celiac Disease runs in families, it’s a genetic illness. In the USA diagnosing celiac disease is relatively new, though it is a very old disease first recorded in 250 A.D. In Europe they have been diagnosing celiac since 1888 when Dr. Samuel Gee linked a gluten-free diet to the treatment. In Argentina doctors have been diagnosing celiac disease for over 40 years. But in the USA diagnosing is relatively new. Actually, some people think is a new diet.
Why it takes So Long to Diagnose Celiac Disease?
Why it has taken so long to diagnose celiacs in the USA might be a mystery, but regardless, it is important to be diagnosed soon if you suspect you are celiac or have gluten intolerance. In my case I stopped “cold turkey” because I didn’t know any better, it was 1993 and I was sick and tired of having seasonal allergies, nosebleeds, sinus problems, bloating and weakened immune system. I had never heard of celiac disease, but I had taken several classes that mentioned about gluten intolerance. In 1986 I took two vegetarian gluten-free cooking classes in New Jersey and in 1993 an herbal and natural alternative class in California that also mentioned the dangers of gluten for some people. That is when I decided I would go gluten-free, though had already experimented a few years before with gluten-free diet. After all in the summer of June 1993 I had spent 2 weeks at the Hippocrates Health Institute where we ate no grains, though we drank the green juice from wheatgrass. Before in 1990 I had read some of Ann Wigmore’s books. The diet she followed was gluten-free, though called raw vegan. I had noticed a difference and decided to continue with the gluten-free diet. The benefits went unnoticed for a while. It was so gradual except that I had no seasonal allergies and no sinus congestions. I had no more nosebleeds, which afflicted me since I was a very young kid. My husband too had some amazing results by following this new diet at home, his skin rashes disappeared and he “outgrew” his lactose intolerance or whatever was making him sick whenever he ate pizza or pasta with cheese. He was celiac but we did not know. He was never diagnosed until much later. We suspect his symptoms started during his high school senior year in New York but was misdiagnosed.
The celiac disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center mentions that the time lapsed between symptoms of celiac disease and diagnosing before 1990 in the USA was 9 years. After 1993 the time in diagnosing is shorter, 4.4 years. But for some people a diagnosis has taken longer. Perhaps now a diagnosis is quicker because of more awareness among the medical profession and patient. Especially with children where stunt or no growth in hight is a key indicator besides the symptoms mentioned above. But be aware, it is not only a children’s disease, also many adults over 50 years old are also diagnosed with celiac or gluten intolerance.
“Celiac disease was rare, but it’s now more common in all age groups,” says Joseph Murray, M.D., a Mayo gastroenterologist.
Many studies show other indicators besides stunt growth such as nutrient deficiencies, weight loss, flatulence, anemia, and osteoporosis. People with the illness would go to the doctors, but perhaps the lack of understanding of U.S. medical profession kept people from being diagnosed earlier. Clear example was my husband who went misdiagnosed for the longest time. But I was suspicious that it could be celiac and suggested to his new physician to test him. And he did after hearing me for a second time. It turned out to be positive. By now my husband had lived in 6 different states and 3 countries, including Spain, without diagnosis and visiting doctors. The closest to a diagnosis was in Dallas and Puerto Rico where during vacation he visited a chiropractor who was also a naturopathic doctor. This was prior to 1999. Both, the internist and chiropractor, recommended abstaining from wheat. And he was while he ate at home since I had already been on a gluten-free diet to avoid seasonal allergies.
The importance of a diagnosis is (as I mentioned in other articles) that the only medicine for now is you diet. But the risk of not being diagnosed is much higher. The side effects of not being diagnosed and not following a gluten-free diet can be devastating–way beyond nutrient deficiency, osteoporosis, but also cancer according to various medical sources.
“Only 3% of people with the disease are diagnosed,” according to the University of Chicago.
Related Post and Sources:
- Managing Celiac Disease (Gestión de la Enfermedad Celíaca)
- Celiac Disease (Gluten Enteropathy)
- Celiac Disease Foundation
- University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center
- University of Maryland School of Medicine Celiac Center
- Medline Plus USA National Library of Medicine
- History of Celiac Disease
- Mayo Clinic
- The Healthy Dish has gluten-free and heart friendly recipes
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