Q. I had acid-reflux surgery because stomach acid was irritating my throat. After the surgery, the correct diagnosis of celiac disease was finally made. Eating wheat caused the acid in my throat.

People often write you about chronic heartburn. They should be told that surgery and drugs aren’t always the answer. If I’d gotten the celiac disease diagnosis sooner, I might have been spared an unnecessary operation.

A. Celiac disease is an inability to tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The immune reaction to this protein begins to destroy the gut and can cause a wide range of symptoms, from heartburn and migraines to fatigue and osteoporosis.

Celiac disease was once thought to be rare, but more recent research shows that it is far more common, perhaps one in 100 people (Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, Nov. 2005). It runs in families, so relatives of patients should definitely be tested. There are no medications to treat celiac disease, but it can be controlled with a gluten-free diet.

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  1. Ray

    I’m 30 and I’ve had acid reflux since I was a young teen. I have lot of allergies and recently became suspicious of gluten because of the other stomach problems. I’ve been on nexium, oemeraprozle and the like and had a endoscopy only to find esophogitis. After eating a gluten free diet, the heartburn is totally gone. I am still waiting for a celiac test, but it is pretty clear how I feel when eat or do not eat gluten.

  2. Sugar

    I have muscle tension dysphonia and laryngospasms. The ENT doctor has me taking Prilasec. It really hasn’t improved. Anyone have any other suggestions as to what has worked for them?

  3. MIW

    I was dx with celiac while having an endoscopy for acid reflux. I went gluten free for 6 months and became depressed over the diet and didn’t feel any different. I take Omeprazole 2x a day and that takes care of the acid. I would be willing to be in a study for those diagnosed with celiac and have no symptoms or hate the gluten free diet.

  4. JW

    I had acid reflux so badly that everything from water to any food caused my throat to burn, my voice to become hoarse, and a severe case of asthma. My surgeon was quite experienced in this surgery and the head of the surgical department in a major hospital in the Houston Medical Center. I got over my asthma almost immediately, and I rarely have any digestion problems. It was quite successful. However, I was also petrified when I learned the negative possibilities. My suggestion is to make sure you have a surgeon who really knows that specialty and is experienced in doing it before you go into it. If he knows what he’s doing, you will have multiple tests prior to the surgeon agreeing to even do it.

  5. Dr. Chris Johnson

    I hope that you get into the problems SOME Celiac patients have with both fructose and lactose intolerance. Some patients have the above allergies on top of the obvious gluten allergy. Pill capsules with dyes which contain gluten present problems as well. Dr. Chris Johnson, Institute of Gerontology, Univ. of Louisiana

  6. zane n.

    I suffer acid reflux up in my
    throat for the last 7 yrs .
    I had been on Prilosec the last 6 yrs and decided to get off through a withdrawal program. Having a large hiatal hernia I requested surgery to stop acid reflux but my gastroenterologist gave me a horror story of all the problems that comes with this repair surgery.
    I am so confused as what options I have left to do!
    any info on hiatal hernia repair will be most helpful.

  7. Christy H.

    When I first met my friend Mike in the late 80s, he was going through bottles of antacids and had been for 12 years, far longer than the bottle label recommended. I told him he should get it checked out. After a severe bout of anemia, he did and was told he had an ulcer. More medicine. It wasn’t until 3 years ago that he finally learned he had a gluten intolerance – from a homeopathic doctor who took the time to ask him about his medical and personal history. He’s now pain free on his gluten free diet.

  8. Joan M

    As a child I had stomach aches almost every night. Neither my family nor my physician could figure out why. I also was anemic for several years in grade school, again without an answer as to the cause.
    In my 50s now and osteoporotic, I recently found out that my chronic abdominal pains, bowel problems, anemia and osteoporosis were all related to gluten sensitivity! I always thought to calm my bowels down, I’d eat something nice and bland like a piece of toast, not realizing that the toast was the culprit. When I modified my diet I was amazed at how much better I felt.

  9. sheila H.

    celiac and acid reflux:
    I have a friend with terrible acid reflux (she’s been on 2 prilosec otc tablets daily as well as Rx for this condition).
    She has been on the Atkins and Atkin’s-type of low carb diet for a while; she told me that when ever she eats low carb her acid reflux goes away and she does not even need the prilosec, etc. If she eats carbs -off diet- again, the reflux comes back.

  10. SH

    My sister in law had bad case of lichen sclerosis in her 40’s. She always had flatus and on & off again diarrhea as did her sisters. She researched the lichen and found a reference to celiac and went on the gluten free diet and solved the lichen and the celiac. She is really strict on this diet because if she eats any gluten, she gets sxs again.

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