Three million Americans have CD. Compare that to two million Americans with Alzheimer’s. Although gluten-free living is getting more press than ever, Celiac disease doesn’t seem to make the rounds in the media. With a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s-like dementia, I know the toll it takes on a family. But with Celiac disease, many people suffer in silence. It deserves more attention.
Making a diagnosis is tricky. If a person tests positive through the blood test, that person most definitely has Celiac disease. But if someone has a negative result on the blood test (1 out of every 4 people with CD), that person might still have Celiac disease. Only an invasive biopsy confirms the intestinal damage associated with CD. Researchers are also finding that the number of elderly with Celiac disease is on the rise. So even if someone tested negative in the past, they may actually develop it later.
In spite of the challenges in diagnosing Celiac disease, I believe that screenings for CD should be happening way more often. Some propose testing anyone with any auto-immune disease even if they have no intestinal complaints. At the very least there needs to be more screening and testing.
On a personal note, my great-aunt, my grandmother’s sister, has Celiac disease. It was diagnosed in the 1990’s. I guess she was in her early 70’s at the time. Everyone in the family just shrugged it off — no one thought that anyone else in the family should get tested even though there is a genetic link. I’m pushing for my grandmother to be tested because of some health problems.
Further reading (I checked all of these out from my local library):
- Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic
- Healthier Without Wheat: A New Understanding of Wheat Allergies, Celiac Disease, and Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance
- The Gluten Connection: How Gluten Sensitivity May Be Sabotaging Your Health–And What You Can Do to Take Control Now
(I’m not going to touch on “gluten sensitivity,” which is different than Celiac disease. I have been tested for Celiac disease and I do not have it. I’ll share the story of why I’m now gluten-free another time. The biggest gift of the project was learning that I can’t eat gluten. I feel better now than I have felt in a long time.)