Last week’s post on High Desert Blogging asked the question What’s the Big Deal About Gluten? We are continuing this week with information about celiac disease as well as non celiac gluten sensitivity. These are two health problems which are related to ingestion of gluten and are becoming increasingly prevalent in our society.
Celiac disease is a severe form of gluten intolerance with intestinal complications. For many years, it was believed that celiac disease occurred in about 1 in 5,000 individuals in this country. Some experts stated that the prevalence was as low as 1 in 10,000. These statistics are proving to be far from accurate, and a new condition referred to as non celiac gluten sensitivity is being diagnosed with increasing frequency.
In a study published January 2000 in the Journal of Pediatrics, 1200 children aged 6 months to 20 years were screened with blood tests and, in some cases, small intestinal biopsy. The researchers reported that the prevalence of celiac disease in these patients ranged from 1 in 57 to 1 in 33. This is significantly higher than the 1 in 10,000 that the medical community had espoused for years. As a result of this misconception about the prevalence of celiac disease and gluten intolerance, many people are diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, or other conditions, when the actual culprit is the gluten in their diet.
Donna at Simply Healthy Eats was recently diagnosed with non celiac gluten sensitivity after months of experiencing troubling health concerns. She feels that her condition should probably be considered pre-celliac and strongly believes that if she had not heeded the instruction of the nutritionist working with her, she would have continued to experience deteriorating health and progressed to full blown celiac disease. She also believes that our standard American diet of highly processed foods, many containing hidden gluten, may be behind the increased prevalence of the condition.
According to Joseph Murray, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, celiac disease is becoming a public health issue, and he states that it is a disease that hides in plain sight. Studies show four times the incidence compared to 1950, with fatal complications if it goes untreated. The Mayo Clinic has found a four times higher risk of death for people with undiagnosed gluten intolerance.
“Celiac disease was rare, but it’s now more common in all age groups,” Dr. Murray says. Although the cause remains unknown, celiac disease affects about one in 100 people. He estimates, however, that approximately 83% of these people are either misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed. Diagnosis is often complicated by the fact that in recent years, the condition has been found to cause a much wider array of symptoms that are not all gastrointestinal in nature.
Next Week: Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance–they may surprise you
**Patti is a frequent contributor at SimplyHealthyEats.com, a website dedicated to helping people make healthy food choices. It features recipes, many of which are gluten and dairy free. She can also be found at PattyCakesPantry.com where she tries to limit her blogging to stocking a pantry, budgeting, and recipes. She isn’t always successful.