I wrote a previous article on the increased popularity of the gluten free diet and today in the Annals of Medicine researchers reported that celiac disease is in fact on the rise. They say celiac has been doubling every 15 years since 1974 and one in 133 people have the condition. Additionally, they found that it’s 2.5 times more common in the elderly which goes to show it doesn’t always show up in childhood.
Don’t think the symptoms are all gastrointestinal either. While it’s true you may have celiac if you have gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, stomach cramps or all of the above, you may also have celiac if you have chronic fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, depression, osteoporosis/osteopenia, or anemia. Any of this sound familiar?
There are multiple ways to test for celiac and not all doctors agree on the "gold standard." First, you can get blood tested for common celiac markers. The problem with this, I believe, is the number of false negatives. Celiac is an intestinal issue and if it’s in the beginning stages or mild you may not have a positive blood test. Some doctors recommend a small intestine biopsy. Again, the false negative rate may be high especially as celiac can be spotty and the biopsy may not get the affected spot. Some experts are recommending stool testing and I have to admit I’m leaning that way – especially because it’s a gastrointestinal issue. Lastly, there are the two main genes associated with celiac and some labs are offering genetic testing for this condition. I having been running this test as well and finding it really helpful especially in families who suspect parents, grandparents and children might be involved.
As you can see, celiac is not a passing fad. Many shopping stores, restaurants, cafes, and entire books are dedicating themselves to gluten free options. Even a popular coffee shop based in the pacific NW has tasty treats that are gluten free (kudos for them!). Most fast food restaurants are quick to point out their gluten free options (this is progress) and several grocery stores are offering at least a few options if not entire sections.