Imagine nearing midlife before you finally find out you have celiac disease, a lifelong hereditary disorder. And all along, you thought that your migraines and gut aches were stress-related.
Research indicates that in North America, one person out of every 100 has this frequently misdiagnosed disease that affects the body in many different ways.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease occurs when gluten — a protein found in wheat, rye and barley –triggers an abnormal immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine, interfering with your absorption of nutrients. When you can’t get the nutrients your body needs, health complications arise. Left untreated, celiac disease increases the risk of malnutrition, osteoporosis (because of poor absorption of calcium and vitamin D), infertility, certain digestive tract cancers and other complications.
Average time for correct diagnosis — 12 years:
According to a 2007 survey of the Canadian Celiac Association’s more than 5000 members, the average time it took to get diagnosed was 12 years. Many reported consulting with three or more doctors before their diagnosis was confirmed. And while most people think celiac disease is a children’s disease, more than two-thirds of those diagnosed are adults.
What are celiac disease symptoms?
Classic celiac symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pain, weight loss and in children, delayed growth. For others, the symptoms are subtler, such as such as bloating, or excess gas. Fatigue, weakness, joint pain and migraines — symptoms typically not associated with the gut — are also reported, and the diagnosis is often anemia, stress, irritable bowel syndrome or chronic fatigue syndrome. Although these symptoms may go undetected, the damage continues. Celiac disease affects people differently. For some, the symptoms might be diarrhea and abdominal pain, while for others it might be irritability or depression. In fact, irritability is one of the most common symptoms in children.
Home Screening Test Now Available
Now there is a simple, accurate way to determine if you are susceptible to celiac disease. For the first time in Canada, Health Canada has approved the Biocard Home Test Kit, an at-home test that measures IgA antibodies from a fingertip blood sample. While this easy blood test gives a high degree of certainty that you are either developing celiac disease or already have celiac disease, you still need to see your doctor for a confirmation. Confirming a diagnosis requires a small bowel biopsy in which an endoscope is passed through the mouth into the stomach’s upper intestine so that the lining can be examined and a biopsy taken. The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet for life. Still, the day you’re confirmed celiac and start your diet, is the day you’re on the road to recovery.