Celiac diagnosis in elderly patients should not be overlooked

Posted on February 5th, 2018 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, News & Research, Symptoms | 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

Increased rates of pregnancy complications in women with celiac disease

Posted on April 22nd, 2015 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Celiac Disease, Symptoms | ADD A COMMENT »

Pregnancy Photo by Ben EarwickerI have always felt lucky that I began a gluten-free diet two years before I became pregnant with my children. Although it wasn’t easy for me to get pregnant, by the time I did, my body had healed significantly from the effects of gluten that could have led to serious complications like miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weight or even stillbirth.

Important nutritional deficiencies (of zinc, selenium, iron and folate) associated with undiagnosed celiac disease may be partially to blame for complications in pregnancy. I was severely anemic before my celiac diagnosis and shudder to think how the lack of iron would have affected my baby.

A new study published in the Annals of Gastroenterology confirms prior research on how celiac disease affects pregnancy by concluding that compared with women in the general population, women with undiagnosed celiac disease have significant increases in spontaneous abortions (miscarriage), preterm delivery and delayed menarche (beginning of menstruation), resulting in fewer successful pregnancies.

Here are the points made by the researchers of this study:

  • Significantly fewer women with celiac disease who tried to become pregnant had successful delivery of one or more pregnancies, suggesting that women with celiac may have a significantly lower rate of fertility.
  • A significantly higher number of spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) occurred in women with celiac compared to controls, with 85% of them occurring before beginning a gluten-free diet.
  • Women with untreated celiac disease are at an increased risk of pregnancy complications.
  • Women with celiac disease have a higher prevalence of preterm deliveries (premature babies).
  • Undiagnosed celiac disease should be considered in patients with recurrent complications of pregnancy, and these women should be given blood tests to detect celiac disease.
  • (This is my point I am adding: even if negative for celiac disease, consider getting tested for gluten sensitivity or go on a gluten-free diet — gluten sensitivity can cause a myriad of health problems.)

As I mentioned above, these findings are not necessarily new — the study mentions much prior research conducted in this area. Alice Bast, the founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) has been sharing this information for years. By the time she discovered she had celiac, she had suffered through the trauma of delivering a full-term stillbirth, multiple miscarriages and a baby born at only 3 pounds. You can read more about Alice’s story here and here.

I encourage you to read the full study I have summarized above: Increased rates of pregnancy complications in women with celiac disease and please pass it along to anyone you know who is having complications with fertility or pregnancy. Feel free to share your own stories here to help others.

Gluten-free diet leads to remission of fibromyalgia in new study

Posted on April 18th, 2014 by Alison | Posted in Autoimmune Disease, Gluten Intolerance, Symptoms | Read 3 Comments - Add Your Own »

In 2008, I wrote a post theorizing the connection between fibromyalgia and gluten. At that time I could find no published medical evidence of this connection, but comments from readers (over 200 of them) confirmed my belief, that many people with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia (FM) may really have celiac disease (CD) or gluten-sensitivity and that a gluten-free diet would alleviate some, if not all, of the symptoms. In many cases, it may not be just gluten, but other food intolerance as well.

I am pleased to see a new study out of Spain that examined 20 patients with fibromyalgia who tested negative for celiac disease but that got better on a gluten-free diet. They concluded at the end of the 16 month study that

remarkable clinical improvement can be achieved with a gluten-free diet in patients with FM, even if CD has been ruled out, suggesting that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be an underlying treatable cause of FM syndrome

They found in their study that

The level of widespread chronic pain improved dramatically for all patients; for 15 patients, chronic widespread pain was no longer present, indicating remission of FM.

Fifteen patients returned to work or normal life.

In three patients who had been previously treated in pain units with opioids, these drugs were discontinued. Fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, migraine, and depression also improved together with pain.

Two patients, both with oral aphthae, went into complete remission for psoriatic arthritis and undifferentiated spondyloarthritis.

For some patients, the clinical improvement after starting the gluten-free diet was striking and observed after only a few months; for other patients, improvement was very slow and was gradually observed over many months of follow-up.

For eight patients, the intake of gluten was followed by clinical worsening, which subsided after returning to a strict gluten-free diet.

You can download the entire published study here: Fibromyalgia and non‑celiac gluten sensitivity: a description with remission of fibromyalgia

If you or someone you know is suffering from fibromyalgia, consider celiac disease or gluten sensitivity as the cause of the symptoms. Trust me, a change in diet is a small price to pay for feeling better!

Gluten and skin diseases

Posted on June 19th, 2012 by Alison | Posted in Autoimmune Disease, Celiac Disease, Symptoms | Read 7 Comments - Add Your Own »

The association between celiac disease and the skin condition Dermatitis Herpetiformis has been understood for quite some time, but a newly published article outlines the associations between gluten and other skin manifestations. The article “Celiac Disease and Dermatologic Manifestations“, put out by the Division of Dermatology in Florence, Italy, concludes that anyone suffering from psoriasis, alopecia areata, chronic urticaria, Hereditary angioneurotic edema, atopic dermatitis, or Cutaneous Vasculitis be screened for Celiac Disease.

They also reviewed other skin diseases for their possible relationship to gluten, and in the conclusion they state: “Although in none of these cases has been effectively demonstrated a pathogenetic link between the diseases, some of these associations are more common. Particularly lupus erythematosus, dermatomyositis, vitiligo, Behc¸et disease, linear IgA bullous dermatosis, and also both skin and mucosal manifestations of lichen. Besides the importance of the diagnosis of DH [Dermatitis Herpetiformis], that is virtually always associated to CD and can be considered a specific marker of the disease, even the identification of the other dermatological conditions associated with gluten sensitive enteropathy could be significant, highlighting the importance of a close collaboration between gastroenterologists and dermatologists. In fact,many skin diseases reported in this paper are actually more common in the celiacs or show atypical clinical presentation often associated with resistance to standard therapies in those patients.”

If you or someone you know is suffering from a skin condition, think about gluten. This article focuses on celiac disease, but as those of us in the gluten-free community know, these same symptoms apply to people with gluten sensitivity.

The entire review article can be accessed here: Celiac Disease and Dermatologic Manifestations.

Please leave comments about your experience with gluten and skin.