A much-publicized chronic GI disorder, celiac disease, and its cousin gluten-sensitivity impact millions of Americans. Both conditions have similar symptoms, but celiac disease damages the small intestine. Here’s information you should know about diagnosis, diet and what your gastroenterologist can do to help celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Also called gluten-sensitive enteropathy, celiac disease develops when the immune system adversely reacts to a protein called gluten which is part of wheat, rye and barley. This protein causes malabsorption problems in the small intestine, the 20-foot long section of bowel which lies below the stomach.
With repeated exposure to gluten, people with celiac disease experience inflammation in their small intestine. As a result, they cannot absorb and use the minerals, vitamins and nutrients their daily food supplies. What results is some degree of malnutrition and symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Pale stools
- Weight loss
- Lactose intolerance (inability to digest dairy products properly)
- Joint pain
- Dry mouth and canker sites
- Irregular menstrual periods
Through expert diagnosis, your gastroenterologist can differentiate between celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity. Celiac disease also can resemble irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis and other bowel disorders. Because of this, your GI doctor’s experience, skill and input are invaluable.
Assessments involve a review of symptoms, medical history and current medications. Also, the GI doctor will order blood work and an upper GI endoscopy to inspect the interior lining of the esophagus, stomach and small intestines.With celiac disease, damage to the small intestine is obvious on endoscopic examination and from the results of a tissue biopsy.
How Your GI Doctor Can Help
Your gastroenterologist can help you deal with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity by educating you on the foods and products which contain gluten. Surprisingly, many over the counter items, such as hair care products, toothpaste and more contain gluten and can be harmful to celiac disease patients. So, carefully reading package labels is an important lifestyle habit for individuals with this GI disorder.
Also, your gastroenterologist may refer you to a dietician or nutritionist to help you maximize the nutrients in your daily meals and to identify the sources of harmful gluten which you may encounter in your own kitchen or when eating out. Thankfully, the damage caused by celiac disease can heal, but the process takes time and persistence. The small intestine normalizes in a matter of months in people who are otherwise healthy.
Treatment For Celiac Disease and Gluten-sensitivity in California
At inSite Digestive Health Care, our gastroenterology team takes special interest in chronic GI conditions which can be difficult to manage. To learn more about how to live well with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, please call the clinic nearest you for a consultation with a board-certified GI physician. We have 65 providers practicing in 30 fully staffed locations in the state of California. We hope to hear from you soon!