Again and again I hear from clients, friends and family “Why should I go and see a doctor when I feel so much better on a gluten free diet?” That’s why I wrote this blog post to share why it is so tremendously important to get a proper diagnosis of celiac disease – or to rule it out. Of course a intestinal biopsy is nothing one wants to start the day with… But there are things far worse – and they could happen if you have celiac and don’t follow the diet strictly.
So here is why you should get it done:
1) Celiac disease means phobia of crumbs
If you have celiac disease you have to beware every gluten containing crumb. 1/8 of a teaspoon of normal wheat flour is already enough to damage the villi in your small intestine if you suffer from celiac – and for most of us even far less! This damage can lead to severe consequences: vitamin and mineral deficiencies, osteoporosis and bowel cancer are all possible outcomes.
If you are “only” gluten intolerant – very much like being lactose intolerant – then very often you can still digest a bit of gluten – sometimes even a whole slice of pizza. You might get sick, but even then your small intestine won’t get damaged.
But if you really have celiac disease it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel sick after a sip of beer or a bite from the pizza. Your small intestine will be damaged and the auto immune reaction triggered. That’s why it is so important to be aware of crumbs!
2) Celiac disease is not a fad
Everyone with celiac knows this of course. But there are restaurants, hotel, airlines and even hospitals that will only shake their heads if you ask for gluten free food – or answer in a snippy way that you are not a Hollywood star (how I hate that!). That’s why you should have a letter from your doctor with the diagnosis with you – well, more likely when you see a new doctor or need to go to the hospital, but there is even a cafe in Dublin that will ask for it (which we shouldn’t visit anyway, as the owner only wanted to get some press articles and there are many more wonderful options in Dublin).
3) For the love of flying
As I just mentioned airlines: most airlines in the world will provide you with gluten free food – without asking for any paper. But many airlines will also let you take an extra piece of luggage for your gluten free food! Normally you can just ask for it when booking the flight but you are on the safe side when you can show a letter with the diagnosis at check in. Imagine being at the airport and having to leave your food behind – oh the horrors.
4) Following Checks Ups
With celiac disease it is important and essential to get your blood tested once a year to check if the gluten free diet is really working. There might be several reasons for the values not going down, and they have to be traced down, as this could be due to cross-contamination, mistakes or complications.
5) Other diseases as complications
Celiac disease is genetically close to type 1 diabetes mellitus and autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto thyreoiditis or Grave’s disease. If you have gotten a proper celiac diagnosis you should get checked up for these diseases, too. It is also important to check your blood for a deficiency of vitamin d and iron. You should also get checked for osteoporosis! I don’t want to alarm you but my doctor found osteoporosis right after my diagnosis. I changed my nutrition completely and now two years later nothing can be seen of it in my bones.
6) Governmental Support
Depending on the country you live in it is quite possible that you get governmental support in one or the other way. Ask the health services in your country about this!
7) Making the diagnosis easier
When you change to gluten free food – especially if you are really strict – celiac disease will be unverifiable after some time. The small intestine will recover and the levels of antibodies will go down until they are not traceable anymore. So if you still want a diagnosis but you are already eating gluten free you need to eat gluten for several weeks till up to three months (depending on the doctor). I have seen people suffering badly at this time and some even discontinued this procedure, because they became too ill.
So please, if you suspect that gluten is your culprit, go and see your doctor or a gastroenterologist and get checked for celiac before switching to a gluten free diet!