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Celiac diagnosis in elderly patients should not be overlooked

Posted on February 5th, 2018 by Alison ADD A COMMENT »

I remember when my parents told me about their elderly friend, a woman in her 80s, who complained of stabbing pains in her stomach that were occurring every day. She had been to doctors, but none helped her. I imagine that they wrote off her complaint due to her age. I imagine this happens a lot… old age is certainly to blame for many health problems. But in this case, my parents were able to help. They were new with knowledge about celiac disease due to my diagnosis (at age 32) and their own improvement in health on a gluten-free diet (which they both started in their early 60s). They suggested to their friend that she go gluten-free. She was willing to try it — she had suggested to them that she didn’t want to go on living if she had to live with that pain. Sure enough, her pain went away, and even in her 80s she was able to change her quality of life dramatically.

This anecdote always reminds me that it is never too late to change your diet, to improve your quality of life. Even my 105-year-old grandmother began eating gluten-free recently because she was having some stomach pains! And yes, they went away.

I worry that many elderly patients who would benefit from a gluten-free diet are being overlooked. The authors of a medical article published in January of 2018, Review article: coeliac disease in later life must not be missed, found that:

Approximately a quarter of all diagnoses are now made at the age of 60 years or more and a fifth at 65 years or over. About 4% are diagnosed at 80 years or above. Around 60% remain undetected, since their symptoms are often subtle: tiredness, indigestion, reduced appetite. Therefore, especially elderly patients may be denied the benefits conferred by gluten free diet which can be dramatically life-changing. Good compliance with gluten free diet, resolution of symptoms and improvement in laboratory indices can be achieved in over 90% of patients.

Once thought to be only a childhood disease, celiac and gluten sensitivity has now been recognized as a disease whose onset can occur at any age. Please share this information with anyone you know who may be suffering, no matter how old they are!

Here is the link to the full article, which contains very good information about symptoms, specifically in elderly patients: Read full article
The PDF version can be found here: Celiac in Elderly Patients

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