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July 7, 2016 | Allergy and Immunology
When it comes to celiac disease, a stomachache is not just a stomachache; it is actually a sign that your body is suffering from an autoimmune response. This disease causes immense gastric distress and can potentially damage your intestines.
Unfortunately, this condition is difficult to diagnose, even if you display common symptoms at a young age. About 83 percent of individuals suffering from celiac disease are initially misdiagnosed or remain undiagnosed due to misleading test results. The journey to receiving an accurate diagnosis of celiac disease as the cause of your ongoing symptoms can take up to 10 years.
Tests are evolving to make the diagnostic process relatively foolproof, as evident by the number of patients with celiac disease increasing fivefold over the last 30 years. Patients can aid their doctors in finding the right diagnosis by understanding this disease and its triggers, symptoms, tests and treatments.
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder caused by a sensitivity to foods containing gluten. When you consume grains containing gluten proteins, your digestive system starts to attack itself. The tiny hairs along the intestinal walls, called villi, sustain severe damage that can impede your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. To keep symptoms from occurring and prevent damage to your digestive system, you must avoid all baked goods and other foods made with gluten.
Although the consumption of gluten products causes direct damage to your intestines, the symptoms can affect your entire body, especially when nutritional deficiencies arise. The total body symptoms are one of the main reasons doctors find it difficult to pinpoint celiac disease as the cause.
Symptoms caused by celiac disease include:
You may also notice a bumpy rash that mimics the appearance and sensation of hives. The rash associated with gluten consumption is actually called dermatitis herpetiformis. You should keep a journal of your symptoms and a daily food log to help your doctor spot telltale patterns.
Since celiac disease shares so many symptoms with other allergies and autoimmune disorders, a process of elimination is usually warranted. You must continue eating a diet containing gluten during the testing phase to ensure the accuracy of the results. You may have your blood tested to identify the presence of autoantibodies your body releases when it detects gluten. If your doctor suspects you may be suffering from intestinal damage, an endoscopic biopsy will usually be performed to confirm this finding. This biopsy is usually performed in a hospital setting as an outpatient procedure. You will be able to return home right after leaving, though your results may not be ready for several days to weeks.
As a chronic condition, celiac disease will continue to impact your health throughout your life without dietary changes. The only way to control your symptoms and prevent damage to your digestive system is by eliminating gluten from your daily diet. Unfortunately, hidden gluten in processed foods can cause flare ups that immediately impact your health and sense of wellbeing. Many people have success following a whole food diet, which requires the total elimination of processed foods and restaurant trips from your normal routine.
If you experience any of the symptoms associated with celiac disease, it is important to make an appointment with your allergist at Revere Health right away. Your allergist can perform diagnostic tests in an attempt to identify the cause of your distress. If you test positive for celiac disease, your doctor can help you alter your daily diet to manage symptoms and prevent further damage to your digestive system.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.