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Painful Cracked Lips Linked to Digestive Disorder and its Consequences

Painful Cracked Lips Linked to Digestive Disorder and its Co...

Q. I suffered from chronic angular cheilitis for years, along with digestive problems. Doctor after doctor dismissed any relationship between the two. I finally saw a nutritionist who identified the problem as B vitamin malabsorption.

I started taking B vitamins sublingually (under the tongue), so they would be absorbed without relying on the GI tract. I have not had any cheilitis for more than a year and a half. She also recommended a gluten-free diet that has stopped my gastric symptoms. After 20 years of bloating, gas and abdominal pain and countless doctors, one nutritionist knew the answers.

A. It rather sounds as though your nutritionist is treating you for celiac disease. In this autoimmune condition, the body reacts to gluten from wheat, barley or rye and attacks the small intestine. The resulting problems with absorption of nutrients can cause a wide range of problems, including those painful cracks at the corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis).

Doctors were once taught that celiac disease was an extremely rare disorder. We now know that it is far more common than they thought, but the diagnosis is still missed more often than it should be. You can learn more about dealing with celiac disease and other frequently missed diagnoses in our book, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

You may also be interested in learning more about the dangerous consequences of celiac disease, including lymphoma and dementia. We did a one-hour interview with Peter H. R. Green, MD, Director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and Professor of Clinical Medicine in the College of Physicians and Surgeons. He shared the latest research on celiac disease in 2012.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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