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Category: Celiac Disease Testing
The rate of celiac disease has more than quadrupled over the last 50 years and now approximately one in every hundred people has the disease in the U.S. Doctors are uncertain why the disease appears to be getting more common, however.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation of the digestive system when triggered by gluten, which is found in certain grains, most notably wheat, barley and rye. It is also found in just about any food made with a gluten-containing grain.
It is usually characterized by abdominal pain and gas or bloating, but can be difficult to diagnose.
The researchers at the Mayo Clinic studied blood samples from an Air Force base in Wyoming collected from 1948-1954 and compared them to samples from a modern population. They found that those who had undiagnosed celiac, about two-thirds of those with the disease by some estimates, were four times more likely to die prematurely than those without the disease.
People with celiac are prone to a number of other secondary diseases due to the difficulty they have absorbing nutrients. Deficiencies in nutrients such as iron or vitamin A are not uncommon. The National Institutes of Health lists type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis and more obscure diseases such as Addison's disease and Sjögrens syndrome.
"Given the nearly quadrupled mortality risk for silent celiac disease we have shown in our study," said Dr Joseph Murray, who led the study, "getting more patients and health professionals to consider the possibility of celiac disease is important." He added that celiac disease testing should become as common as lipid testing or cholesterol testing is now.
There are simple blood tests that can be done to detect celiac, relying on the detection of antibodies. The celiac disease test is about 99 percent accurate, but because the consequences of finding the disease include a lifelong change in diet, it is recommended to follow-up after a positive result with a biopsy of the small intestine. Some celiac disease tests use genetics to assess the presence of the disease, and these are also highly accurate.
The only known treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. Because of the increasingly high profile of the disease, many people have taken to putting themselves on gluten free diets and then following up by getting a celiac disease test. Unfortunately, since a gluten free diet gradually heals the intestine of the damage that has been caused by the disease, taking a celiac disease test a few weeks after changing what you eat can result in a false negative.
In Canada there is a growing gluten-free food industry, the Globe and Mail reports, with numerous restaurants rolling out gluten-free menus, although the selection is sometimes limited.
"The gluten-free food industry is still in its infancy in Canada," a Toronto woman told the Globe and Mail. "Most restaurants are unaware of the condition, or will offer you a meal without, like eggs without toast, rather than with a gluten-free alternative."
Food manufacturers in the U.S. are producing more gluten-free alternatives to their products. Betty Crocker brought out a series of gluten-free cake and cookie mixes to make baking easier for those who miss baked goods and Chex now has a gluten-free version for those who want to partake of the time honored ritual of a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Gluten-free shopping guides and gluten-free cookbooks have also cropped up in greater numbers.
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