Thursday, June 09, 2005

Rare Find

Doctors have always labeled celiac disease as a rare food allergy that, while a serious condition for those afflicted, is generally not something the rest of us need to worry about. Well, it seems that the underlying problem that causes celiac disease -- an autoimmune condition caused by gluten intolerance -- isn't so much rare as it is undiagnosed. Some researchers postulate that individuals often have symptoms for as many as 11 years before they are diagnosed correctly. Worse, they believe that only 2.5 percent of those who have some form of gluten intolerance ever get diagnosed at all. This is sad, considering how serious the health consequences can be -- and that the condition can often be completely rectified through diet. Untreated, gluten sensitivity can result in a long list of disorders, including many cancers, autoimmune disorders, neurological diseases, chronic pain syndromes, and even psychiatric and other brain disorders. The classic symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition. However, digestive symptoms are not the only symptoms celiac can cause. Neurological disorders associated with the disease include sporadic and progressive cerebellar ataxia, cerebral atrophy and dementia, cerebral vasculitis, myopathy, peripheral neuropathy, and epilepsy. If you suspect that you or anyone in your family might have celiac disease, or a gluten-sensitivity, you can ask your doctor to perform a tTG or tissue transgluminase test. Keep in mind that if you have already eliminated wheat or gluten products from your diet, this test will come up negative, even if you have the sensitivity. But if you have consumed any wheat products and have the sensitivity, this test will do a better job of picking it up than previous tests. If you do have celiac disease or gluten-intolerance, eliminating grains and grain products (like rice, pasta, bread, etc.) from your diet can go a long way in helping you feel better --sometimes even better than you can imagine. Many people who have this disease report that they were so accustomed to their low level of health, they almost didn't know they had a problem -- until they went gluten-free. Suddenly, they transform into healthy people, full of energy. Co-author of the book Dangerous Grains, Ron Hoggan, reports that he didn't realize until he eliminated gluten grains from his diet how uncomfortable and chronically ill he had been for much of his life. To learn more about gluten sensitivity, check your local library or bookstore for a copy of Dangerous Grains by James Braly and Ron Hoggan. Being aware of this condition and knowing what signs to look for may just keep you or someone you know from becoming one of those "undiagnosed" statistics.


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