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Is it Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Undiagnosed Celiac Disease?

By Peter Berlin

Your doctor tells you your stomach problems are from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). So he treats (or mistreats) you for your symptoms when in fact you don't have IBS. What your doctor may have missed is that you have a little known condition, celiac disease, and you don't have to suffer anymore because relief of your problems is only a change of diet away.

The National Institute of Health, estimates that over three million Americans have undiagnosed celiac disease. Why so many? Because on average it takes 11 years to get a proper diagnosis. That’s 11 years millions of people are needlessly suffering. Could you be one of them?

The symptoms of celiac disease are very similar to a host of other intestinal disorders. They are: diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and weight loss. And many patients don't experience those signs but instead report so-called atypical symptoms, including: a blistering, itchy skin rash, anemia, short stature, delayed puberty, infertility, and tooth enamel defects. Because there are a broad range of symptoms that may be readily associated with other conditions or ailments, celiac can be difficult to diagnose and often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

So what exactly is celiac disease?

It's a genetic autoimmune disorder also known as gluten-intolerance. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley and its derivatives. Therefore foods and ingredients to be avoided include such staples as most flours, bread, and pasta. If you have celiac disease your body recognizes gluten as a toxin. Toxins are essentially poisons to your body. Gluten reeks havoc on a celiac's body by causing the villi, which line the intestinal wall, to become flattened and lose the ability to absorb nutrients from food.

It is important to properly diagnose and treat celiac disease for two reasons. First, with proper treatment the small intestine will heal and your symptoms will disappear over time. The other more important reason is that if a persona with the disorder continues to eat gluten, chances of gastrointestinal cancer can increase by 40 to 100 times that of the normal population. In addition, gastrointestinal carcinoma or lymphoma develops in up to 15 percent of patients with untreated celiac disease. Osteoporosis is another condition that can be caused by failing to treat this disease.

The only acceptable treatment for celiac disease is strict adherence to a 100% gluten-free diet for life. That measure can prevent almost all complications caused by the disease – without medication – as the small intestine will steadily heal and start absorbing needed nutrients and, therefore, eliminate painful symptoms.

But a gluten-free diet is not easy. It means avoiding all products that contain wheat, rye, and barley or any of their derivatives. That challenge can prove to be a daunting task as many hidden sources of gluten are found in the ingredients of several processed foods. However, the health rewards are tremendous.

Being diagnosed with celiac is a life-changing experience. Imagine having to give up bread, pasta, and beer among other things. Where can you go out to eat? Where can you vacation? Where can you find substitutes for the foods you crave? The doctors will not have the answers to these questions. The best source of information on living with celiac is hearing from others who have “been there, done that.”

If you have been suffering from intestinal problems and have not gotten relief, find out all you can about celiac disease. Educate your doctor about it. It can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. There are many support groups across the country and several books that can give you information and put you on the road to recovery.

Remember, relief may be just a change of diet away.

©2005, A Personal Touch Publishing, LLC.

Peter Berlin is the founder of A Personal Touch Publishing which publishes books written from people’s first-hand experiences in dealing with life’s challenges. Their book A Personal Touch On…™ Celiac Disease is available on-line at

Be sure to check out the Web site to find out the new books they are working on and to submit your stories to help others.

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