Surge in Celiac: No longer a rare disease, say researchers

Until recently, doctors thought that celiac disease – an intolerance of gluten (a protein in wheat and other grains) – was rare in North America. That perception is changing. A recent Mayo Clinic study found a dramatic increase in the number of cases of this disorder. The group most affected is women in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

The January issue of the Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource details signs and symptoms of celiac disease including sporadic diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and foul-smelling or grayish stools. It’s not uncommon for people with celiac disease to have symptoms for many years before a diagnosis is made because of the wide range of symptoms and the belief that the disease is rare.

Celiac disease is diagnosed by a blood test and confirmed by taking a tissue sample from the small intestine. Once diagnosed, it’s important to eliminate gluten from the diet and avoid bread, pasta, cookies or anything containing wheat, barley or rye. After a few weeks on a gluten-free diet, you’ll typically see improvement in symptoms.

Many health and nutrition stores offer a wide range of gluten-free foods as well as helpful books and pamphlets to help ease the transition to eating gluten-free. Ask your local health and nutrition store how they can help!

Mayo Clinic, Dec 30, 2003