According to the online resource www.celiac.org celiac disease (also called celiac sprue or gluten sensitive enteropathy) is an autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of gluten can damage the small intestine. It is further described as an autoimmune disorder affecting 1 in 100 people worldwide and a disorder that can occur among "genetically predisposed people." Common signs and symptoms include abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, weight loss, fatigue, irritability and behavioral issues, dental enamel defects, delayed growth, failure to thrive, and ADHD. If not treated, long-term consequences may include developing other disorders such as Type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy rash), anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, epilepsy, migraines, and intestinal cancers.
Last year, in the Journal of Family Practice, an article was published describing "Why celiac disease is so easy to miss" the authors point out that less than half of patients present with GI symptoms. An unexplained symptom, iron deficient anemia, may be a clue that a patient needs to be tested for celiac disease. Other conditions, such If a patient has a 1st degree relative with celiac disease, presents with autoimmune thyroid disease, peripheral neuropathy, recurrent migraine, chronic fatigue, osteopenia/osteoporosis, or elevated liver enzymes. (See the linked article for further considerations for testing.) Blood serum tests can help determine the presence of celiac disease, and other tests such as an intestinal biopsy or response to a gluten-free diet can be used to confirm the condition. Adherence to a gluten free diet is critical for a patient with celiac disease, and if you are currently (or have tried) eating a gluten free diet, you know how challenging that may be because gluten is in so many products including sources such as vitamins, medications, and lipsticks! If your patient has been diagnosed recently with celiac disease, referral to a nutritionist may be an excellent part of the patient's plan.
While we might imagine that a patient who has a genetic susceptibility for celiac disease would be diagnosed long before we first see them in the clinic, patients can have a "triggering event" such as a trauma, infection, or severe stress that triggers an onset of the disease. And because of the common gastrointestinal symptoms that are present, a patient with undiagnosed celiac disease may be found in our clinical practice. If you would like to learn more about how celiac disease can affect our patients, those diagnosed or undiagnosed, check out the Institute's new course on Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist, instructed by Megan Pribyl who earned degrees in both nutrition and exercise science. The course taking place in Seattle this weekend has a few last-minute spots for you to attend, and if you'd like to host this course, contact us at the Institute!