Interesting finding on an increasingly common ailment, the diagnosis of celiac disease is on the up. Today more people are getting sick from being exposed to products that have gluten – one recent study finds that up to five times the number of patients have celiac disease now as in the 1950s.
Another report points out that rates of celiac disease have doubled every 15 yrs from 1974. Today estimates have one in 133 Americans being impacted by this disease.
Once experts had suspected regional differences in disease rates, but now they see this disease everywhere.
Why the increase? There are lots of theories…
We know that celiac disease is classed as an autoimmune disease that causes your own immune system to launch an attack on the small intestine. The attack is caused by consuming gluten, which is a protein that can be found in grains like wheat, rye and also barley.
This condition will interfere with digestion, and for children can bring symptoms like bloating, diarrhea or constipation and vomiting.
Adults who have this condition don’t often show symptoms, but have problems like anemia, unexplained tiredness, osteoporosis or arthritis due to the body not getting the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
Celiac disease awareness has grown too. Now there are gluten free foods at the grocery store, good news for patients since the only treatment for the condition is a gluten free diet. But it’s not just people being more aware of symptoms, or diagnosis being better that explains the rise in the numbers.
The most popular theory suggests that increases in sanitation as well as hygiene, that are a result of progress may be at fault. All of us have an increased risk of celiac disease as our bodies don’t have to fight off the numbers of organisms as they had to in the past.
Being so clean as a society has possibly made our immune systems weaker, less developed than they ought to be… than they were in the past.
Another theory along these same lines is that our super clean society has brought a change in the bacteria normally found in the digestive system. Lending credence to this thinking is that increased levels of celiac disease happen most in industrialized nations, where things are kept cleaner… where antibiotics are abused, our hands are washed too often and we’re vaccinated frequently.
Other potential explanations?
- More gluten in the grains we eat today, gluten levels are much higher than even 70 years ago
- Kids are being given gluten at an early age; introducing grains to the diet too soon can cause those with risk factors for celiac disease to be more likely to get it
- Fewer women breastfeeding their babies, which may protect against celiac disease.
It’s possible that all these may play a part, or that in some people one factor is more important than the others.
About a third of the population carries genes that leaves them susceptible to the disease. And while many adults remain without symptoms, research has shown that the earlier those with the disease get treatment, the better they are to hold off the more debilitating effects of celiac disease.
Experts warn that if you suspect celiac disease, do not restrict your gluten intake without being tested first. If you do so, you’ll be impacting the accuracy of any diagnosis of celiac disease done later on, and since this disease is difficult to diagnose (symptoms are similar to other diseases), you’ll want to have every advantage when it comes to diagnosis. So don’t alter your diet before getting screened, but if you are at risk (or think you are) get to your doctor and get tested.