According to research, 1 in 133 people have celiac disease. Celiac disease is the inherited autoimmune condition where eating foods containing the protein gluten causes damage to the villi in the intestines. This leads to a number of malabsorption problems and physical symptoms.
There are more than 2 million people in the United States who have celiac but have not been worked up or diagnosed. It has been suggested that even more people suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is not an autoimmune disorder. However eating the protein gluten causes significant symptoms throughout the body that are not necessarily all centered in the intestines.
With either diagnosis, people must go on a strict gluten-free diet. But what happens when a gluten-free diet does not work and the symptoms do not resolve?
Here are 3 tips to try.
1. Really evaluate how gluten-free you are on a daily basis.
As it takes 6-12 months gluten-free for the intestines to heal, eating gluten here and there, by choice or by accident, can take its toll on the healing of the tissue. Read labels carefully, do your research on key words to look for and do not assume. Even some ice creams use gluten flour as an ingredient.
Gluten products are often used in places one may not expect such as in salad dressing, yogurt, soy sauce, BBQ sauce, soups, spices and gravies. Make a habit of asking when at restaurants about seasonings and sauces.
2. Could it be something else?
There are over 300 documented symptoms of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity however many of those symptoms overlap with other conditions.
Perhaps your migraines are related to hormones or stress, your fatigue is due to insomnia or a thyroid problem, your joint pain is osteoarthritis or genetic, or your ongoing heartburn is related to a lower esophageal problem, stomach acid issues or eating too quickly.
Both constipation and diarrhea can occur with different thyroid problems. Cracks at the corners of the lips can be due to deficient B-vitamins, particularly vitamin B12.
3. Are you sensitive or allergic to another food?
Research points out that many that have celiac also have a problem with dairy products. In fact, the top ten most common food allergies are: dairy, gluten/wheat, eggs, peanuts (not a nut), tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, sesame and corn. It may be worthwhile to consider removing all traces of dairy from the diet for a few months and then re-evaluate your symptoms from there.
Talk with your health care provider if giving up gluten has not resolved your symptoms and consider these tips in order to continue to improve your health.
1. The University of Chicago Celiac Center. (n.d.) Celiac Facts and Figures. Web. 20 April, 2013.
2. The University of Chicago Celiac Center. (2013). About Celiac Disease. Web. 20 April, 2013.
3. Woodward, J. (2013). The Management of Refractory Coeliac Disease. Web. 20 April, 2013.
Reviewed April 22, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith