Over the past several years, you may have noticed a large increase in the numbers of gluten-free options at restaurants or products in your grocery store. If you’re a member of the community of 1 in 100 people around the world who is affected by celiac disease, you are probably very grateful for that change in availability. If you aren’t familiar with this disease of the digestive tract, you might not understand how important the change can be for those who are affected. While celiac disease is becoming more of a topic of conversation, another more common condition might be the culprit to the changes and challenges of your digestive system. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is more common condition and perhaps even less understood.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder which affects the digestive system. The symptoms of the disease manifest when you eat food containing gluten, even trace amounts. It alters the way your body absorbs nutrients in the small intestine, causing a range of reactions and symptoms. These symptoms can include diarrhea, bloating, gas, fatigue, weight loss, iron-deficiency anemia, constipation, or depression. It can also cause visible damage to your intestine. Symptoms can also be triggered by stress, both emotional or physical, pregnancy, and other medical conditions.
What Is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity?
Where celiac disease can cause visible damage to the small intestine, NCGS does not. It also would not appear in any blood tests, meaning it can be more challenging to properly diagnose. NCGS presents with many similar symptoms to celiac, but doctors are unable to see any signs of actual damage to the digestive system. Gluten comes from the proteins found in wheat, which are most commonly found in foods containing wheat, barley, and rye. The most common sources of gluten are bread, baked goods, cereals, pasta, and beer. For those with either celiac or NCGS, it’s important to also avoid the less obvious sources of gluten, which can be found in many soups, sauces, food colorings, or salad dressings.
What Should I Do If I Suspect Celiac Disease or NCGS?
One of the first steps to determining if you have a reaction to gluten, whether it is celiac disease or NCGS, is to make an appointment with Dr. Sameer Islam. When you come in for your appointment, we will perform a physical exam as well as blood testing if needed to determine what the root cause of your digestive struggles are. Prior to your appointment, we suggest that you write down any symptoms you are experiencing. Keep track of what you’re eating and how it relates to your symptoms, as well as any other causes of discomfort. You should also understand if you fall into any of the high-risk categories for the disease. Celiac disease is genetic, meaning you’re at a higher risk if you have a family member who is affected. Other risk factors include having certain autoimmune disorders. It’s important to not self-diagnose and stop eating gluten prior to your appointment. Your diet should remain the same as what you’re used to so we can properly diagnose your condition.
Depending on the results of your appointment, we can suggest diet and lifestyle changes which might help improve your symptoms. Celiac disease cannot be cured, rather it’s a lifelong condition that needs to be managed through constant monitoring of your diet.