Gluten-free eating frenzy is not likely to go away for a while, like all fashionable choices do. Many people claim to feel better and more energetic after adopting gluten-free diet. So what is gluten, you might ask? It is a type of protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
A small percentage of people have celiac disease, when they really can't consume gluten or it will cause their own cells to attack organs, where gluten can be found, such as intestines and other tissues. Only one in 140 people have this auto-immune disease. The disease can be dormant for many years before manifesting it at any point in life. However, the real number might be as high as 3.1 percent of people that are affected by this disease, according to Denver Study.
The health concerns of celiac disease are well-known and documented. Other reasons for avoiding gluten, however, have been studied less and sometimes include plain placebo effect. Some people might be sensitive to gluten or something else in wheat, while others just follow trends and believe in hype.
Gluten sensitivity does not cause organ damage, like celiac disease does, but people might experience a variety of symptoms. After eliminating the protein form their diets, they feel more energy and others lose weight easier. While you can hear gluten mentioned very often nowadays, there is a significant number of people who are currently walking with the disease and don't know it yet. The symptoms can be virtually unnoticeable and confusing, so it might take years to figure out what is wrong with you. You can have abdominal pain, gas, bloating, constipation or chronic diarrhea, fatigue, anemia, weight loss, muscle cramps, irregular periods, infertility, miscarriage, vitamin deficiencies, discolored tooth enamel, and bone loss or fracture.
As you can see, so many of those symptoms can signal various health problems. Other people just get used to feeling certain way and don't mention anything to their doctors. In reality, while the disease is hidden, it can cause some serious damage, which can be avoided if the celiac disease could be diagnosed early on.
A screening program to detect this disease early on, especially in children, can be life-saving for millions of people. Children can have their growth impaired by this illness and suffer life-long health problems if not treated. Unfortunately, there is no such test that could detect the hidden disease, so the task force could not endorse the screening program. The disease is serious enough, no doubt, but there is not enough evidence to answer questions about the impact the screening would do in asymptomatic patients.
The accuracy of screening tests needs to be improved, the effect of the test itself needs to be understood, and treatment options better learned. Doctors have to be sure that they can help people that would have the disease diagnosed without symptoms, which is currently unclear.
The Task force concluded that so far not a single study looked at potential harm or benefit of screening itself. Much more research is needed before some certain conclusions can be determined about the value of such screening before symptoms show-up.
At the meantime, people are experimenting with gluten-free diets all over America. This has some benefits. If eating such diet makes one feel better, why not? Families that can afford more expensive gluten-free foods can enjoy experimenting as long as that passion doesn't turn them into social pariahs.
The main problem with self-treatment without proper diagnosis is that people avoid gluten and then their blood sample does not show the positive finding. Biopsy is also rendered not effective. If you have some suspicions, get your blood screened before you start the diet on your own.
Intestinal damage is only one problem. If the celiac disease is not diagnosed early on, kids can suffer from poor bone development and growth loss. Bone fractures later in life are very likely in such adults. If you have undiagnosed celiac disease and suffer from infertility, you also experience emotional hardship and loss of quality of life.
When symptoms are barely noticeable, people learn how to live with them and never try to get screened. If the entire population would be tested, part of society would not have to live never knowing what health feels like, according to Dr. Murray of Mayo Clinic.
People are less careful about what they eat and rarely engage in self-medication with diet, which would be required to overcome the effects of this disease.
There are some negative medical consequences of going on a strict gluten-free diet. Those that suffer from celiac disease might start putting on weight when gluten is eliminated because all the nutrients would then be absorbed correctly. They are also likely to develop a metabolic syndrome, which can mean heart disease and potential Type 2 diabetes down the line. So gluten-free eating is not as healthy as some people imagine. Think well before doing it for fun.
Before population-wide screening is developed, Dr. Murray recommends screening only that part of population that is in the risk group. This would include family members of celiac patients, Type 1 diabetes sufferers, people with anemia and early osteoporosis, among others. All the people with chronic bloating, mouth ulcers, headaches, and fatigue should be tested. People with tingling or numbness in arms and legs, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's syndrome could also benefit from testing.
Celiac disease is no joke, so be vigilant and don't rush into medicating yourself without testing.