If you suffer from abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, joint pain, skin rash, mouth sores or tingling in the legs and feet, you may be one of the approximately 1 percent of Americans who are diagnosed with celiac disease. For those who are diagnosed with celiac disease, following a strict gluten-free diet is currently the only option available when seeking symptomatic relief. While the growing availability of gluten-free products available in stores may make it easier to manage these symptoms, is a gluten-free diet enough to make symptoms go away?
Contrary to popular belief, celiac disease is more than just an upset stomach. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that can impair the ability of the body to absorb necessary nutrients which can lead to other health problems like anemia, weight loss, depression, osteoporosis, infertility, lymphoma and dental issues.
It is often difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms can be similar to those caused by irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, intestinal infections, lactose intolerance and depression, and each person experiences symptoms in a different way. Blood tests are the first step in a diagnosis of celiac disease.
The Food and Drug Administration established regulations in August that defines “gluten-free” for product manufacturers. The label “gluten-free” can be placed on any products that contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
However, even those who carefully choose their foods based on gluten-free labels also need to be aware of cross-contamination dangers, both at home and in the community. For example, if a cutting board is used to chop bread and vegetables without a thorough washing in-between, a person with celiac disease eating the vegetables could eat enough gluten to cause symptoms and/or injury to the small intestine.
For many people, completely eliminating gluten from their diet isn’t enough to alleviate all of their celiac disease symptoms or allow for complete healing of the intestinal damage caused by small amounts of gluten in the diet. About 60 percent of patients still experience moderate to severe symptoms of their disease while following a gluten-free diet, according to a recent study. The CeliAction Study is a clinical research study that will determine if an investigational drug is able to improve the damage in the lining of the intestine caused by even the smallest trace of gluten. The study will also evaluate whether the investigational drug improves any symptoms of celiac disease. Patients randomized into the study will not purposefully be exposed to gluten during the study. To learn more and to see if you qualify, call 855-3333-ACT or visit CeliActionStudy.com.
Patients can differ in the severity of their symptoms, and how those symptoms are managed. A lot of information is available both online and through health centers, providing patients and their families with knowledge about living on a gluten-free diet, including shopping tips and recipes.