As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed I’ve developed sensitivity to certain kinds of food – in other words, I can’t eat spicy or acidic foods for fear of a massive, chest-tightening and burp-inducing bout with acid reflux and indigestion. This reaction can range from mild discomfort to the kind of pain that makes you question – is this something else? Or, as Fred Sanford used to say on ‘Sanford and Son-’ “is this ‘the big one?’”
So I can’t even imagine what those who suffer from celiac disease must feel when they’ve mistakenly eaten something with gluten in it. I have a family member with the disease and know, from what that relative has shared with me, that the repercussions can be extremely traumatic.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect one in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.”
That’s a lot of people who don’t even realize they are experiencing symptoms of celiac disease. The foundation’s website said it can be “difficult to diagnose because it affects people differently” with around 300 symptoms that can occur in the digestive system or other areas of the body.”
The foundation states that children and infants are more likely to show symptoms, and the most common symptoms of celiac disease found in children include abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, pale, foul-smelling or fatty stool, weight loss, fatigue, irritability, defects in the enamel of permanent teeth, delayed growth and puberty and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The foundation’s website states that adults are less likely to have digestive symptoms and are more likely to experience symptoms including unexplained iron-deficiency anemia, fatigue, bone or joint pain, arthritis, bone loss or osteoporosis, depression or anxiety, tingling numbness in the hands and feet, seizures or migraines, missed menstrual periods, infertility or recurrent miscarriage, canker sores inside the mouth and an itchy skin rash.
Obviously, these symptoms could mean a number of other things are going on that are not necessarily related to the consumption of gluten, but if you or your child is experiencing many of these symptoms, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to get checked by your physician.
According to the foundation, diagnosis consists of a blood test, followed by a biopsy of the small intestine to confirm the findings if the test seems to indicate celiac disease. If you are diagnosed, the treatment for both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity is lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. The treatment for both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity is adhering to a strict gluten-free diet. But this doesn’t have to mean that you no longer can eat your favorite foods. Fortunately, the community of those affected by this disease has many ideas for recipes that are gluten-free and many restaurants offer gluten-free alternatives on their menus.
For more information on celiac disease, visit celiac.org.
Jennifer Wing can be reached at [email protected].