Do I have celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a disorder of digestion that may cause a variety of uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and socially-awkward amounts of gas.
To get celiac disease, you must have the celiac gene, a little bad luck, and exposure to gluten, a protein found in delicious foods containing wheat, barley, and rye.
The celiac gene is very common in North America. About 30% of us have it. But most of us won’t develop celiac disease, even with generous consumption of pizza, cheese puffs, and beer. Some experts think 1 out of 133 Americans have celiac disease but many have nearly no symptoms.
In those with celiac disease, for unknown reasons, gluten protein freaks out the immune system, causing inflammation in the intestines. The small intestines, normally replete with absorptive villi, become damaged, reducing the body’s ability to absorb water, sugar, iron, and the afore-mentioned cheese puffs.
Your doctor may choose to perform tests that identify abnormal antibodies in the blood. These tests can be confirmed by gingerly examining the intestinal wall with a camera inserted through the mouth. Most prefer anesthesia for this procedure.
The treatment of celiac disease is challenging, as it requires avoidance of all foods containing gluten protein, which is found in many delectable culinary treats and certain adult beverages. Failure to avoid these food types may cause malnutrition, increased risk of cancer in adults, and of course, those awkward gastrointestinal complaints.
The Impatient Doctor answers tough medical questions in 2 minutes or less. Remember, to all you sofa doctors out there, diagnosing or treating anyone based on Internet videos is generally a bad idea.
Michael K. Davis, MD.
The Impatient Doctor