What's That Rumbly in My Tummy?

If you think its IBS or Colitis, it could be celiac disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

It sounds so exotic; celiac disease. Why is this mysterious disease affecting almost three million Americans?

Often thought to be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or colitis, celiac disease is so often misdiagnosed that it is estimated that only five percent of the people who have celiac disease are correctly diagnosed. The other 95 percent who are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed waste about 10 years and $5,000 a year while searching for a correct diagnosis.

"You may have Celiac when experiencing bad stomach pain, IBS, or colitis."

Celiac disease is actually a fairly simple disease in which the protein gluten is seen by the immune system as an intruder, which causes the immune system to produce antibodies to attack the gluten intruder. Unfortunately the antibodies also damage the small intestine, preventing the proper absorption of nutrients from foods, as well as diarrhea and bloating.

The problem with diagnosing celiac disease correctly is that the symptoms (diarrhea and bloating) are so general that they are attributed to simply having a bad stomach, IBS, or colitis. To get the proper diagnosis of celiac disease a simple blood test should be done. If the blood test that shows the presence of celiac antibodies, it is almost assured that the person has celiac disease. An endoscopy which involves putting a tube down the throat into the intestine to retrieve a tissue sample will confirm celiac disease.

There is no cure for celiac disease, but meeting with a nutritionist or dietician who can explain and plan eating habits can alleviate almost all of the symptoms. What makes celiac disease cruel is that the protein gluten is in wheat, rye and barley, which means that pastas, breads, cakes, and worst of all, beer, are on the no eat list. However, many foods are now being produced that are gluten-free, and thankfully, even gluten-free beer.

Keeping celiac disease at bay is easy as long as you cut out the gluten, and with so many gluten-free substitutes that should not be a problem. However, the long-term problems from not controlling celiac disease include infertility, malnutrition, cancer, and of course chronic stomach problems.

Review Date: 
March 2, 2011