Gluten intolerance symptoms and treatment
From Spotlight on Health - Fall 2009
Gluten intolerance includes all kinds of sensitivity to gluten such as allergies and celiac disease.
Celiac disease is a condition in which the immune system responds abnormally to a protein called gluten, which can cause damage to the lining of the small intestine.
What causes gluten intolerances?
Both celiac disease and gluten intolerance can develop after emotional stress, infection, surgery, pregnancy and childbirth. Each individual with gluten intolerance or allergy may experience different kinds of symptoms, making it a challenge for physicians to diagnose.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms include: diarrhea, flatulence, arthritis, bloating, headaches, mouth ulcers, weight loss, anemia and dermatitis. Sometimes people with celiac disease may have no symptoms at all.
How is it treated?
No drugs or therapies are needed to treat gluten intolerance, but patients must follow a strict gluten-free diet. Reading all food labels is important. Food companies and restaurants are becoming more aware of gluten intolerance and offer thousands of new gluten-free products every year. Always check with the company or restaurant if you are unsure about an ingredient.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity and celiac disease symptoms usually become worse with age if left undiagnosed. Untreated, celiac disease can lead to malnutrition, loss of calcium and bone density, lactose intolerance, cancer and neurological complications. Eventually, the malnutrition can cause vitamin deficiencies affecting the brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs.
Hidden sources of gluten:
- Malt, including malted milk, malt liquor, etc.;
- Battered foods;
- Thickeners and stabilizers;
- Natural flavoring;
- Modified food starch;
- Gravies; and
Approximately 70 million Americans currently suffer from gastrointestinal conditions.
CentraCare Digestive Center helps patients with gluten intolerance and other common digestive conditions such as: Crohn’s disease, colitis, heartburn, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and hepatitis.
CentraCare Digestive Center provides specialized services for conditions relating to the stomach, liver, gallbladder, intestinal and digestive system. Testing for gluten intolerance includes blood tests and small intestine biopsy.
People with suspected gluten intolerance should see a physician for accurate diagnosis. Most people improve dramatically within weeks on a gluten-free diet.
To make an appointment at the CentraCare Digestive Center, call (320) 229-4916.