Gluten Intolerance: how to know if you’re celiac?
Celiac disease: difficult diagnosis
Celiac disease (more widely known as gluten intolerance) is an autoimmune disease which causes permanent intolerance to one or more protein fractions of gluten present in wheat, rye and barley. This “real disease” affects one among each 100 people in Europe, for example, although doctors believe that 80% of celiac individuals are not diagnosed with this disease and do not follow a gluten-free diet – this latter being the only treatment for gluten intolerance available nowadays.
The large number of symptoms and their variable intensity make the diagnosis process difficult. In some people, the presence of the disease is atypical and barely symptomatic. In others, it is even asymptomatic. In the latter case, the diagnosis is not posed except with the screening of families with celiac members or fortuitously, during an endoscopic examination prescribed for a totally different medical condition.
Celiac disease: what are the symptoms?
Celiac disease causes the atrophy of intestinal villi, causing a nutrient malabsorption, especially iron, calcium and folic acid, and this has a significant impact on health. This can manifest itself through digestive symptoms (bloating, flatulence, nausea, digestive problems, etc.), by abnormalities in transit (diarrhea, constipation), as well as by a significant loss of weight.
Gluten intolerance also provokes vitamin deficiencies that can cause atypical symptoms: muscle cramps, bone pain, coagulation abnormalities, irregular periods, recurrent miscarriages, fertility disorders, etc.
The unexplained persistence of one or more of these symptoms should suggest celiac disease and lead to its screening.
Celiac disease: no diet without diagnosis
The “gluten free diet” to which we give health and slimming virtues has trivialized the disease for lack of reliable diagnosis.
It is imperative not to start a gluten free diet before knowing whether one is clearly suffering from the disease (with positive antibodies and confirmation by biopsy) or whether one simply suffers from hypersensitivity to gluten, which can be classified under the field of functional bowel disorders.
In fact, self-prescribing a gluten free diet can skew the results of diagnostic tests and complicate or prevent the identification of the disease and the implementation of an appropriate treatment.
On the long run, this lack of treatment can lead to serious complications, such as bone demineralization and the development of other autoimmune diseases or even cancer.