"You need to have a celiac disease test" says the doctor.
If you're like most people the words "celiac disease" have no history in your vocabulary. So what are they talking about?
Simply put, it means you have an intolerance to gluten. When patients with Celiac consume foods that contain gluten they actually damage their small intestine in addition to possibly building up trouble in the future.
The symptoms in adults will generally include diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain; although in some cases more serious complications like anaemia can occur.
Celiac disease is first likely to present when a baby starts solid food. The symptoms to look for in babies are a little different.
The three most common grains in the western diet (wheat, rye and barley) all contain gluten, so if your body can't tolerate foods like pasta, bread, or bagels, you may well have the disease. The good news is that Celiac testing can tell you for sure, and once you know, it is relatively simple to treat, through a change in diet.
Celiac testing is done to determine whether or not a person has the disease.
The testing first involves a blood test, which is relatively painless and straightforward.
Before the test you will continue to eat foods that contain gluten. If you have Celiac Disease your blood will then show high levels of microscopic proteins called anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTGA) or anti-endomysium antibodies (EMA).
Don't bother memorizing the names - just know that it is the high levels of these proteins that indicate Celiac Disease.
If you were to stop eating gluten before your test these protein levels would go down, causing the test to come back negative.
If the blood test comes back negative, but your doctor still suspects that you have the disease, more Celiac testing may be necessary.
The next step is an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy/biopsy.
I'll be honest; this test is not as simple, or as pleasant, as the first.
Normally you will be sedated, and then your doctor will insert a long, thin tube (called an Endoscope) through your mouth down into the small intestine, to check for damage due to gluten intake.
Gross? I agree, but this test will indicate for sure if you have Celiac Disease, allowing your doctor to properly treat you. If the intestines are damaged then you almost certainly have Celiac.
Believe it or not, you are not alone! Celiac disease is becoming increasingly common among Americans. In fact, 1 in every 133 people in the USA has it.
ecause of the increasing commonality of gluten allergies, many food manufacturers now offer gluten free products making it much easier to find options that will work for you.
If your Celiac Disease test comes back positive your doctor will direct you to resources to help you get started with a gluten free lifestyle.
You will then have to learn the art of substituting foods containing gluten for other grains, that will give you the nutritional value you need, without making you sick.
While this may seem like an overwhelming task, fortunately, many resources are available to help you as you begin.
If celiac is ruled out, but you are still feeling ill, you might like to try an elimination diet to see if there are any foods that you react to. You can then decide whether or not to cut them out of your diet.
Once your Celiac testing is complete, and you have a diagnosis of celiac disease, the best thing you can do is educate yourself about healthy gluten free living. Read the information your doctor gives you, and never hesitate to ask questions.
You can also find tons of websites (including this one!) that will assist you in establishing positive patterns in your gluten free diet.
A number of gluten free cookbooks are available at your local library, bookstore, or online, that will help you learn substitutes for common ingredients.
The most important thing you can do is not panic!
Many people have taken this journey before you. Embrace the new lifestyle, learn all you can, and you will be just fine.