Get Checked for Celiac Disease

For our first Blog topic we thought we would share some myths and misconceptions about a common gastrointestinal disease, Celiac Disease aka Celiac Sprue.

Myth #1 : Celiac Disease is rare and it is unlikely that I have it.
Fact: The fact is that the incidence of Celiac Disease in the population is approximately 1% which is considered quite common when we talk about medical conditions. People most at risk include those with anemia, chronic digestive complaints, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, osteoporosis, first degree relatives of patients with the disease, and those that have been told they have irritable bowel syndrome or other autoimmune diseases (Arthritis, Thyroid disease, Lupus, Crohns disease, Ulcerative Colitis, etc…).

Myth #2: I have been checked by my doctor for Celiac Disease by blood testing and I do not have it.
Fact: In our experience, testing for celiac disease is complicated by numerous areas where mistakes can be made. For example, blood testing is only 70-80% accurate. The gold standard for diagnosis is considered upper endoscopy where small tissue samples are taken from the small intestine and the tissue is examined under the microscope. The reality is that in our practice to increase yield of diagnosis we utilize a combination of testing including blood testing (serology), endoscopy, genetic testing, and finally response to diet. We have diagnosed numerous patients who were previously told they do not have the disease by utilizing this rigorous algorithm.

Myth #3: The best way to tell if I have the disease is to try a Gluten Free Diet.
Fact: Although the treatment for Celiac Disease is life-long Gluten Free Diet, a dietary change prior to testing is not recommended. Once a strict gluten free diet is started, the small intestine starts to heal immediately and making a definitive diagnosis becomes exceedingly difficult. The best way to tell if you have the disease is to discuss your case with a board certified gastroenterologist who has a specific professional interest in the disease.

Myth #4: Celiac Disease is more an annoying disease of digestive complaints rather than a dangerous life threatening illness.
Fact: The reality is that Celiac Disease is a life threatening disease that significantly increases one’s risk of early death if not diagnosed and managed appropriately.

Myth #5: I have been diagnosed with the disease and I am doing a pretty good job by avoiding gluten in my diet by not eating breads and pastas.
Fact: Gluten is a reactive protein that is present in many more things than just breads and pastas. It may be present in your condiments, alcohol (particularly beer), medications that you take, or snacks that you eat on a daily basis. If you have the disease, it is important that you abstain completely from gluten intake as even a small amount of gluten contamination in your food is dangerous to your health. The single most important thing you can do to prevent contamination is to be educated about gluten in your diet and this is best accomplished by meeting with a nutritionist who has a specific professional interest in the disease.

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