Do you have celiac disease? Often this can be difficult to answer because the symptoms of this gluten-sensitive disorder are easy to overlook or are similar to those of other diseases.
Celiac disease occurs when gluten — a protein found in food and food ingredients made with wheat, rye or barley — damages the lining of the small intestine, interfering with your absorption of nutrients. When your body can’t get the nutrients it needs, health complications can arise.
3 classic and 6 non-classic celiac symptoms
While diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating are thought of as the classic symptoms of celiac disease, especially with children, in adults these symptoms aren’t always present, or noticeable. Some adults report headaches, fatigue and joint pain. Others report weight gain or weight loss, depression and hair loss — symptoms not often associated with gut-related problems.
As a result, it’s understandable why even health professionals sometimes confuse celiac disease with irritable bowel syndrome, iron-deficiency anemia caused by menstrual blood loss, Crohn’s disease, intestinal infections, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Or treat the symptom as stress-related.
Sad but true: most people with a celiac disorder remain undiagnosed
Because of its many different symptoms, celiac disease is commonly under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed. Or not diagnosed at all. In fact, health research experts estimate that while one out of 100 North Americans is gluten-sensitive, some 97 percent of those affected by this disorder remain undiagnosed.
Left undetected, celiac disease can lead to malnutrition and bone problems like osteoporosis, because of the gut’s poor absorption of calcium and vitamin D. The disease can also lead to infertility, certain digestive cancers and other autoimmune disorders such as Type 1 diabetes and thyroid disease. In children, especially, celiac disease can lead to delayed growth.
Now for the good news.
Finally, a new at-home screening test for celiac disease
Now there is a simple, accurate way to determine if you are suffering from celiac disease. For the first time in Canada, Health Canada has approved the Biocard(TM) Celiac Test Kit, an at-home test that measures the body’s immune response to gluten from a fingertip blood sample.
While this easy, patient-friendly blood test gives a high degree of certainty that you are either developing celiac disease or already have celiac disease if you test positive, you still need to see your doctor for confirmation.
Second step diagnosis: a small bowel biopsy
While the Biocard blood test is the first step in screening for celiac disease, you still need confirmation from a small bowel biopsy administered by your health care professional. Don’t worry, the procedure sounds worse than it is. Your doctor will simply ease an endoscope through your mouth into the stomach’s upper intestine so that the lining can be examined. Once those results are in, you’ll know whether you’re celiac or not.
If you find out that you have celiac disease, the only treatment is a gluten-free diet for life. Today that diet is getting easier to follow, with a growing variety of tasty gluten-free products from supermarkets and natural food stores.