Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease
In recent years, there have been numerous media reports on gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Celiac disease is a serious, digestive condition in which the consumption of the protein gluten, commonly found in wheat, barley and rye, triggers an immune reaction in the small intestine. This immune reaction can cause damage in the small intestines, which can lead to malabsorption problems and vitamin deficiencies, which can be detrimental to anyone, especially a child who needs proper nutrition for growth and development. For some, there are no typical signs and symptoms for celiac disease but others have reported intermittent diarrhea, bloating, weight loss and general weakness. There are blood tests available which can measure levels of certain antibodies but in almost every case, the patient will need to be evaluated by a gastroenterologist for a biopsy of the tissue of the small intestine to confirm the diagnosis. Although it may be difficult, the treatment of choice after a definitive diagnosis has been made is to remove gluten from the diet. Fortunately, community awareness, coupled with the growing market for gluten-free foods have made dietary avoidance a somewhat easier task. However, in some cases, it may be worthwhile to meet with a dietician for further education, support and counseling.
For some, finding an explanation to their recurrent symptoms is not as easy. Gluten sensitivity, although it has some similarities to celiac disease, is quite different. Some experts think that as many as 1 in 20 Americans may have some form of gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance. As with celiac disease, the recommended treatment is a gluten-free diet but before significantly altering your lifestyle, it is often beneficial to meet with an allergist to see whether an allergy to wheat, barley or rye (foods commonly associated with gluten) or some other substance is present. From there, we will be able to provide you with additional information on how to deal with your condition.