story on celiac disease

At one time, doctors believed that celiac disease was extremely rare, that the few children who had it would outgrow it and that the symptoms were primarily digestive. We now know that none of these axioms are true and the story on celiac disease is different. What is it now, and why does it matter?

What Is the Story on Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s reaction to the protein in gluten damages the digestive tract. This disorder is far more common than doctors once thought. According to current statistics, as many as 1 person in 120 or 140 has celiac disease. Since susceptibility is partly determined by genetics, people with a family member who has celiac disease are consequently at much higher risk of the disorder.

Celiac disease can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, but it also damages numerous other body systems. An inability to absorb vitamins and minerals can result in nutritional deficiencies that may affect the blood, bones, brain or skin. Anyone with severe anemia or unexpected osteoporosis should be tested for this condition.

How Do You Know If You Have Celiac Disease?

This is not a disorder that lends itself to self-diagnosis. Blood tests can give a strong indication, though they are not entirely foolproof. A biopsy of the small intestine is the gold standard for diagnosis. It is very important that anyone who suspects they might have celiac disease NOT start immediately on a gluten-free diet, as that could interfere with the accuracy of the diagnostic tests. You need to get the true story on celiac disease without distortion.

How Is Celiac Disease Treated?

The only treatment currently is complete gluten avoidance. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done. Wheat, barley and rye all contain gluten. These grains (especially wheat) are found in a surprisingly large number of processed foods, sometimes as texturized vegetable protein. At the same time, people following a gluten-free diet may need to make a special effort to get all the nutrients they need in addition to shunning gluten.

Should Others Follow a Gluten Free Diet?

As it happens, the question of non-celiac gluten sensitivity is quite controversial. After ruling out a celiac disease diagnosis, some people still feel better if they skip wheat and other gluten-containing foods. By following a diet focused on whole foods, especially vegetables and meats, which are naturally gluten free, such individuals can get a balance of nutrients.

This Week’s Guest:

Joseph A. Murray, MD, is a gastroenterologist in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. He is also Professor of Medicine there, and runs the celiac disease research program. It focuses on epidemiology and complications of celiac disease and mouse models of gluten sensitivity.

Dr. Murray is the section editor for Gastroenterology for the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. He serves as a consultant to several companies and has broad experience with clinical trials.

His book is: Mayo Clinic Going Gluten Free: Essential Guide to Managing Celiac Disease and Other Gluten-Related Conditions.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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Air Date:November 11, 2017

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  1. David
    Wylie, TX
    Reply

    I listened to this show with interest on my way to a Pancreatic Cancer PurpleStride event. Many symptoms are similar to pancreatic cancer’s. At the event, I met a woman who was gluten intolerant and had her entire pancreas removed (Whipple & distal splenectomy) due to IPMN’s throughout the organ. She is now fully dependent on insulin and pancreatic enzymes (Creon). Since the surgery, she can now eat gluten without problem. Perhaps the replacement enzymes are better able to break down gluten?

  2. Ed
    Selma, NC
    Reply

    My wife and daughter have recently discovered their thyroid condition is a result of an autoimmune condition triggered by gluten. The condition is Hoshimoto’s disease. My wife and daughter have changed their diets to “gluten-free.” Does Dr. Murray have any thoughts on this condition?

  3. sherry
    Reply

    I probably had this most of my life and went to doctors with various symptoms. The doctors never diagnosed the problem and one even told me I just needed a shrink. After reading about it on the internet, I realized I had almost all the symptoms listed and went gluten free. Don’t ask me to go back on gluten so a doctor can diagnose it with the gold standard test, they had a good 45 years missing the boat and I seem to be doing very well on my own. I take a lot of vitamins, cook from scratch since many processed foods have gluten and/or milk (also can’t digest) in them. If I unknowingly eat something with gluten in it, I get a canker sore or my fingers suddenly get purple bruises on them within 24 hrs. My son also has issues. Neither of us have problems in Europe where the wheat is different.

  4. Mary
    UK
    Reply

    I hope that your guest will address the use of Faecal Calprotectin testing for inflammatory markers in Primary Care prior to even doing blood tests (TTG). Studies have already shown that coeliac children with high FCAL results indicating IBD, do much better on subsequent FCAL if they follow a gluten free diet. We see far too many physicians relying simply on blood tests for coeliac which are not always reliably accurate and carry a high healthcare cost.

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