According to the National Institute of Health, it is estimated over three million Americans have undiagnosed celiac disease and on average it takes 11 years to get a proper diagnosis. That’s 11 years of needless suffering from symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and weight loss. And many patients don’t experience those signs, instead reporting so-called atypical symptoms, including a blistering, itchy skin rash, anemia, short stature, delayed puberty, infertility and tooth enamel defects. Because of its broad range of symptoms that may be readily associated with another condition or ailment, celiac can be difficult to diagnose. Another factor why doctor’s miss the diagnosis is that many doctors are not knowledgeable about celiac disease.
The disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder also known as gluten-intolerance. Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley and its derivatives, so foods and ingredients to be avoided include such staples as most flours, bread and pasta.
If a personal with the disorder continues to eat gluten, chances of gastrointestinal cancer can increase by 40 to 100 times that of the normal population. In addition, gastrointestinal carcinoma or lymphoma develops in up to 15 percent of patients with untreated celiac disease.
The only acceptable treatment for celiac disease is strict adherence to a 100% gluten-free diet for life. That measure can prevent almost all complications caused by the disease – without medication – as the small intestine will steadily heal and start absorbing needed nutrients and, therefore, eliminate painful symptoms.
A gluten-free diet means avoiding all products that contain wheat, rye, and barley or any of their derivatives. That challenge can prove to be a daunting task as many hidden sources of gluten are found in the ingredients of several processed foods. But the health rewards are tremendous.
Being diagnosed with celiac is a life-changing experience. Imagine having to give up bread, pasta, and beer among other things. Where can you go out to eat? Where can you vacation? Where can you find substitutes for the foods you crave? The doctors will not have the answer to these questions. The best source of information on living with celiac is hearing from others who have “been there, done that.”
If you have been suffering from intestinal problems and have not gotten relief, find out all you can about celiac disease. There are many support groups across the country and several books that can give you information and put you on the road to recovery.