New Report Finds Celiac Disease More Common Than Ever Expected

Celiac DiseaseEverywhere you go these days you hear “gluten free” being tossed around, but not everyone is allergic or even impacted by gluten. Still, restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries are adding gluten free options to the menu. While many are touting this as silly, there might be more gluten intolerant people in the world than originally assumed.

According to a recent study, more people are impacted by gluten than previously thought. Those who have Celiac Disease have an autoimmune disorder that reacts negatively to foods containing gluten, such as wheat, rye, spelt and barley. For many years it was assumed that celiac disease was rare, only formed in childhood and resulted in weight loss and diarrhea due to improper nutrient digestion caused by intestinal damage.

Fast forward to the present day and we have found out this information isn’t 100% accurate. For one, Celiac disease (CD) is far more common than originally assumed. Secondly, diarrhea and weight loss are not the only defining symptoms.

The latest study to change the way we view CD comes from a group of doctors based in Italy. The study led by Dr. Umberto Volta and his colleagues took an in depth look at 770 cases of CD at St. Orsola-Malpighi Hospital. The findings have been published in the journal of BMC Gastroenterology. Their research led them to discover the profile for patients with CD has changed over the last decade or two.

CD is not reserved to the young anymore; instead patients of a much wider age range are developing it. Most of today’s cases don’t include the classic symptoms either. Instead of nutrient malabsorption and diarrhea, patients are coming in with “non-classical” symptoms including osteoporosis, anemia and bloating. Unfortunately, many clinics don’t yet recognize these symptoms as associated with CD, complicating correct diagnoses for patients around the world. CD is often misdiagnosed as Crohn’s disease or Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS).

CD is known as a silent disease that takes on average as long as 6-10 years to properly diagnose and address. In the US, only 17% of patients with CD are aware of their condition.

CD cases also appear to be on the rise. This might have to do with greater ability to diagnose CD, or it might indicate an actual rise in people developing CD. Either way, over the last 5 years, far more individuals were diagnosed with CD than in previous years. According to an international collaboration of epidemiologists, these rates are indeed rising and over the next 10 years are expected to rise even more. In fact, the growth rate for CD is predicted around 4.61%.

What was only recently considered rare food intolerance is turning out to be something so much more. According to Dr. Peter Green, an expert on CD as well as the director of Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University notes that, “Anyone can have celiac disease, it’s common and underdiagnosed.” (Reference)

That means the rise in gluten-free foods is only going to get more popular over the coming years as more people are diagnosed with intolerance to the common ingredient. After all, another recent finding hints that the impacts of consuming gluten when you have CD are broader than digestive issues.

Reports such as these tend to have a panic effect where suddenly everyone thinks they are gluten intolerant. So how do you know if you have CD or not?

Symptoms of Celiac Disease Include:

  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, other related digestive issues
  • Neurological issues
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Infertility
  • Skin rashes

There are some pre existing conditions that are known to correlate with CD, including autoimmune disorders such as Type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroiditis, primary biliary cirrhosis and more. Also, your risk for CD increases if you have family members with the disease.

There are a number of other symptoms that have now been linked with CD as well. The only way to know for sure is to be tested by your doctor for the disorder. If you have any suspicion you may have CD getting tested is the best way to know for sure.

The key is to diagnose patients with CD as soon as possible so that appropriate steps can be taken to improve quality of life and health.

Treatment Of Celiac Disease

As of right now the only way to stop damage of the small intestine if you have CD is to stop eating gluten. Even tiny traces of gluten, the popular ingredient used to give baked goods an elastic quality and some flavor, can cause harm to your stomach if you have CD.

Giving up all foods that contain wheat, barley and rye isn’t easy. The Kansas Wheat Commission is currently spending $200,000 to identify every last ingredient in wheat that negatively impacts someone with CD. The goal is to eventually create a form of wheat that everyone can enjoy, gluten intolerant or not.

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