Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease seen in approximately 1% of the population and causes damage to the small intestines. Celiac disease occurs when exposure to gluten (the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye) causes the lining of the small intestine to break down. When a patient has celiac disease, gluten exposure and the consequential intestinal damage can cause a number of digestive symptoms including weight loss, gas, diarrhea, disrupted bowel movements and abdominal pain. Celiac disease can also cause unexplained rashes, joint pains, headaches, and a many other physical symptoms.
Testing for celiac disease requires expert guidance from a physician. The tests involve blood work and an endoscopy procedure. Proper testing requires exposure to gluten in the diet. Patients already on a gluten-free diet who desire testing for celiac disease should see a gastroenterologist.
Some patients with other digestive health issues may benefit from a gluten-free diet, however medical research has shown that eliminating gluten from the diet and “feeling better” is not the proper way to diagnose celiac disease. Other undiagnosed health conditions may improve on gluten free diets; it is important to see a physician. “Gluten intolerance” or “non-celiac wheat sensitivity” are conditions where a patient without celiac disease feels better on a gluten-free diet.
GI Associates offers full consultation and endoscopy services in regard to celiac disease and gluten-related disorders including blood tests, biopsies, and genetic testing.