“I have silly what? How do you spell that? I’ve never heard of it!” Chances are your friends, family and co-workers will never have heard of it either. Family doctors and naturopaths are typically the first health care professionals approached about symptoms and because the symptoms of celiac can mimic so many other illnesses people are often misdiagnosed. It takes an average of 10 years, 2-4 doctors and 2 gastroenterologists after the onset of symptoms to get the diagnosis.
Upon diagnosis getting the necessary help to implement this complex diet can be frustrating. The following are statements made to my clients by their doctor:
“You have celiac disease; that means you must eat gluten-free. Any questions?” The doctor answered a few questions with her hand on the door knob and a waiting room full of patients.
“Your daughter has celiac disease. Put her on a gluten-free diet.” After meeting with me the mother returned to the family doctor asking for a referral to a dietician at KGH. “How do I do that?” the patient was asked.
“Your son has celiac disease,” said the pediatrician; start a gluten-free diet immediately. There was no referral to BC Children’s or a nutritionist.
We were very fortunate with Hannah. Our pediatrician pegged her diagnosis before the blood work even came in. I had time to research it like crazy before we actually got the official diagnosis. We walked into his office full of questions. He listened to all our concerns, counseled us, referred us to Children’s Hospital, the dietitians at KGH, and had a plan of action for when her next tests would be done and a follow-up appointment within the month.
This is the difference between a doctor who is aware of celiac disease and those who are not. This column is not meant to be a slag against family physicians. Family physicians have extremely busy practices and with today’s cutting edge technology they have a lot of different diseases to stay on top.
That is where the Canadian Celiac Association and its members step in to help spread awareness of the disease and it’s chameleon of signs and symptoms.
May is celiac disease awareness month. Our focus this year is on the family doctor as it is the GP that needs to be aware of the symptoms in order to order the necessary tests. We are making headway in this regard. There is a belief out there that celiac disease is just a digestive ailment. The truth is that celiac disease is a multisymptom, multisystem disease in which the GI tract is the major site of injury.
Do some of these symptoms sound familiar to you or someone you know?
- Deficiency of vitamins A, D, E, K
- Abdominal pain, bloating/cramping/gas
- Indigestion and nausea
- Recurring/persistent diarrhea
- Extreme weakness and fatigue
- Weight loss
- Lactose intolerance
- Dermatitis herpetiformis (skin form of celiac disease)
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Recurrent canker sores
- Easy bruising
- Bone/joint pain
- Edema (swelling) of feet and hands
- Menstrual irregularities
- Infertility in both men and women
- Recurrent miscarriages
- Peripheral neuropathy, ataxia, epilepsy with occipital calcifications
- Additional symptoms in children:
- Irritability and behavioral changes
- Delayed growth/short stature
- Delayed puberty
- Dental enamel abnormalities
The Kelowna Chapter has many things planned for awareness throughout the year. Once again the target will be the frontline health care professional. On May 8, 2010 please join us for the 2nd annual Gluten-Free at Choices. You can register for the seminars or just come by and enjoy a wide variety of gluten-free food.
You will also find us at Nature’s Fare from 10-2 on May 4th, 12th, 18th, and 27th. We will have gluten-free goodies being demo’ed along with a table set up with all sorts of free information on celiac disease and members of the celiac association to answer any of your questions.
The Canadian Celiac Association is a volunteer-based registered charity that provides resources and support to people with celiac disease. It also hosts and promotes public awareness and research initiatives within the community.
Angela Petrie is a gluten-free consultant. She can be reached at 250-863-8123 or check out her website at www.glutenfreehelp.ca