Weight loss, loose stools, infertility, joint pain, bloating, migraines—these are only some of the varied symptoms that can result from celiac disease. For those who suffer from this mysterious illness, a gluten-free diet can be life-changing, but there is little data to prove that the diet is beneficial for the general population.
I would describe a gluten-free diet for the general population as a “fad” diet. It’s certainly healthy to reduce your intake of carbohydrates and accordingly consume more fruits, vegetables and lean meats, but barring celiac disease it isn’t necessary to scrub all gluten from your diet. Many celiac patients stumble on a gluten-free diet in desperation after years of living with gastrointestinal discomfort; others try the diet at the behest of their physician after diagnosis. For those with the disease the diet isn’t a fad, it is life altering. In fact, nearly all patients go into celiac remission after following the diet for one year.
The problem is celiac disease is an uncommon disease with common symptoms, which explains why it is quite elusive to many health care providers. In my opinion, increased awareness, screening and testing accounts for the rising number of people diagnosed with the disease.
If you have any of the following symptoms, or you have been suffering with unexplained gastrointestinal concerns, I recommend that you speak with your provider about testing options.
- Chronic diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Abdominal distention
- Bloating sensation
- Joint pains
- Skin rash
Lesser Known Symptoms
- Bone fractures
- Recurrent migraine headaches
- Frequent miscarriages
- Low birth weight in children
Unique Symptoms Seen in my Office Practice
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Weak and thin bones
- Herpetic skin rash
Celiac disease is frequently associated with a variety of autoimmune or connective tissue disorders such as diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. If you also suffer from any of these diseases, it might be worth getting tested for Celiac’s.
If you plan to go gluten free, regardless of your disease status, be sure to speak to a physician or registered dietitian to come up with a diet plan that is healthy for you.
Dr. Felix Tiongco practices with Gastroenterology Associates of Tidewater and is on the medical staff at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. He is board-certified in gastroenterology and hepatology. He attended medical school at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine in Manila and completed an internship and residency at Northwestern University McGaw Medical Center and a fellowship at the university of Illinois College of Medicine, both in Chicago.