May is Celiac Awareness Month

Celiac disease is one of the autoimmune diseases.  This particular disease damages the small intestine and reduces the rate of nutrient absorption.

Although public awareness of this disease is quite recent, the history of the disease goes back to the beginnings of the human race. In the beginning of the Neolithic Period, humans were hunters and gatherers and survived on fruits, nuts and meats.  But, as the period evolved, humans began cultivating plants.  This led to the agricultural revolution, and the start of food antigens like dairy, eggs and processed grains. It was during this age that celiac disease was born.  As the centuries marched on, the disease was identified and given the name of celiac.  But, there still existed no idea of how to heal the condition.

In 1888, an English doctor by the name of Dr. Samuel Gee discovered that he could relieve the symptoms of the disease by regulating food. It wasn’t until 1953 that a Dutch doctor by the name of Dr. Willem Karel Dicke observed that the children with celiac disease who weren’t able to get bread during World War II were no longer having any of the celiac symptoms.

By the 1960’s, biopsies were being performed to test for celiac, but that was merely to determine the amount of damage to the intestines. A 2nd biopsy would be performed to determine the improvement to the intestines after the patient had been put on a gluten-free, diet.  Then a 3rd biopsy would be performed to determine reoccurring damages to the intestine. This method of disease determination remained in existence for over 20 years.

Now, in the 21st century, celiac is well-known and testing occurs on a more regular basis.  But, we are still in the dark ages as far as early detection is concerned. This is the area that needs growth.

There are three types of celiac disease.  When there are no noticeable symptoms the person has “silent celiac disease.”  A person with minor symptoms has “minor celiac disease” which can include symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, weight loss and mild abdominal pain. People with the third type, “major celiac disease,” have the same symptoms as “minor celiac disease,” but to a more intense level.  They also suffer with stomach cramps, diarrhea and muscle spasms.  All of these people need to avoid gluten, a protein found in grains such as barley, wheat and rye. The disease affects about one in 141 people in the United States, or approximately 3 million Americans. Of these 3 million,  only about 5% are aware that they have the disease.

It has been shown in current studies that a substantial number of celiac patients were diagnosed after the age of 50.  One important study showed that one-third of the new patients that were diagnosed with celiac disease were over the age of 65. For more information on celiac disease and the elderly, please contact one of our staff members at the Kabb Law Firm: 216-991-KABB (5222).