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Going gluten-free is all the rage among people trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and restaurants and grocery stores are jumping on the bandwagon by offering a slew of gluten-free choices. But avoiding gluten is not optional for patients suffering from celiac disease.

Celiac disease is a genetic, autoimmune disease that damages the lining of the small intestine. The disease is triggered when people eat gluten, a protein found naturally in wheat, barley and rye. The disease damages the small intestine’s villi, which absorb nutrients. Approximately one out of 100 people worldwide are affected by celiac disease, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to accelerating diagnosis, treatments, and a cure for celiac disease through research, education and advocacy. Three million Americans suffer from celiac disease. It is more common among Caucasian females, as well as people with Down syndrome, Turner syndrome and type 1 diabetes.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Celiac disease has a host of symptoms that vary among patients. The average length of time it takes for a person in the United States with symptoms to be diagnosed with celiac disease is four years. Going without treatment increases the risk of developing complications, including autoimmune disorders, neurological problems, osteoporosis and cancer, the University of Chicago Medicine reports. Some of the common symptoms in adults are stomach problems, like gas or diarrhea, according to WebMD, but other symptoms include:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Arthritis
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Tingling numbness in hands and feet
  • Seizures
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Itchy skin
  • Mouth sores

Children suffering from celiac disease may exhibit signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as irritability and behavioral issues, according to the CDF.

Get Tested at Any Lab Test Now

Despite the popularity of the gluten-free diet, nearly 2.5 million Americans with celiac disease remain undiagnosed, the CDF reports. You can access the Celiac Disease Panel at Any Lab Test Now.  You do not have to fast before taking the test and you will have results to show your doctor in less than a week.

Treating Celiac Disease
Unfortunately, if you learn you have celiac disease, the only treatment is to adopt a gluten-free diet, according to Mayo Clinic. Eliminating breads and processed foods containing gluten is key to preserving the health of the small intestine. Removing gluten from the diet reduces inflammation in the small intestine within months for children and slightly longer for adults. While the intestine heals, doctors may prescribe steroids to combat inflammation.

In addition to the obvious sources of gluten, it hides in many everyday products, and even trace amounts can trigger an attack, Mayo Clinic reports. Here’s a list of uncommon products that need to be monitored for gluten.

  • Modified food starch, preservatives and food stabilizers
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Herbal and nutritional supplements
  • Lipstick products
  • Toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Communion wafers
  • Envelope and stamp glue
  • Play-Doh and similar flour-based modeling compounds

Gluten-free diets do not require avoiding all grains. People with celiac disease can enjoy a number of grains and starches, including cornmeal, buckwheat, corn tortillas, quinoa, rice, tapioca and wild rice. Many people with celiac disease find following an anti-inflammatory diet, in addition to cutting out gluten, helps reduce symptoms. The diet includes fatty fish, vegetables, whole grains and beans.

Psychological Impacts of Celiac Disease

Receiving chronic health news often causes stress, anxiety and depression. The side effects of celiac disease can cause fatigue and depression owing to malnutrition and lack of vitamin absorption. People with celiac disease report brain fog, memory lapse and headaches, as well as avoidance of social situations, according to Beyond Celiac, a patient advocacy nonprofit. Doctors recommend maintaining a regular exercise routine and receiving psychological support to prevent depression.

If you have a family history of celiac disease or are experiencing any uncomfortable symptoms, visit your local Any Lab Test Now location to get tested today.

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