It has been estimated that of the 3 million people in the US who live with celiac disease, only 5% are aware they have this condition. The remaining 95% suffer without knowing what is causing their gastrointestinal problems.
The month of May is dedicated to raising awareness of about celiac disease, a genetic autoimmune disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack and damage the small intestine. This diminishes the body’s capacity to absorb nutrients from food increasing the risk of developing conditions such as anemia or osteoporosis.
People with celiac disease are sensitive to gluten, a type of protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It can affect different people in different ways with symptoms ranging from mild abdominal pain and bloating to severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, and spasms.
Here are some tips for living with celiac disease:
- Obtain a Definitive Diagnosis: Before embarking on a gluten-free lifestyle, you need to be absolutely certain your symptoms are caused by celiac disease. The first step would be to undergo a blood test to look for a specific antibody (IgA-tissue transglutaminase) and the second step would be getting an intestinal biopsy which would confirm the diagnosis.
- Consult a Registered Dietician: Obtaining dietary advice from a licensed healthcare professional will ensure you can maximize your nutritional intake while minimizing the chances of inadvertently consuming food that contains gluten.
- Read Food Labels Carefully: Gluten is an ingredient in many processed meats, salad dressings, and soups. As far as possible try to avoid processed foods or else look at the labels on every food item you buy even if you do not think it may contain gluten.
- Clear Your Doubts when Dining Out: Inform your server of your medical condition and ask questions such as; Has the cooking oil been used to fry other items that may contain gluten? What are the seasonings used? How are the sauces thickened? etc.
- Monitor Bone Health:
While there is no “cure” for celiac disease, the above-mentioned tips can help you not only survive, but thrive despite a diagnosis of celiac disease.
Greater Houston Gastroenterology is the largest full-service gastroenterology group in the Houston metropolitan area, bringing high quality, cost-effective personalized care to patients from The Woodlands and North Houston to Richmond and Sugarland. Please reach out of us if you have questions or would like additional information.