Some people start a gluten-free diet because they feel gluten may be the trigger for symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, constipation, irritability, swelling, chronic fatigue or migraines. Often, once people change their eating habits, they feel better and decide that gluten was the culprit.
But, was it the removal of gluten or a dietary overhaul that improved the symptoms? Knowing for sure can make a difference to long-term health.The Canadian Celiac Association estimates that 1 in 133 people in Canada have celiac disease. Celiac disease is a medical condition where the absorptive surface of your intestine is damaged when you eat gluten (proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale). This damage to the surface of the intestine makes it hard for your body to absorb the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Celiac disease can cause the symptoms described above as well as others.
The treatment for celiac disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet. The consequences of not following a strict gluten-free diet can be serious for those diagnosed with celiac disease. They include possible infertility, bone disease, neurological disorders, increased risk of developing other autoimmune diseases and increased risk of certain types of cancer among others. The good news is, with a gluten-free diet, symptoms typically resolve and people can live healthy, happy lives.
To diagnose celiac disease, there are blood tests used for screening and then a biopsy (removal of a piece of tissue from your intestine) confirms whether or not you have the disease.
Here's the catch: you need to be eating gluten containing food to get an accurate diagnosis from the blood tests and biopsy. If you go on a gluten-free diet before this, you may get a negative test result but actually have celiac disease.
The problem with this is that if you don't know you have celiac disease, you may be more likely to continue to eat some foods containing gluten. If you have celiac disease, this could negatively affect your health, as even a small amount of gluten can have an impact without any obvious symptoms.
The bottom line: If you think that gluten may be causing symptoms for you, talk to your doctor to rule out celiac disease or other conditions BEFORE starting a gluten-free diet. Then you can know for sure.