ZocdocAnswersWhat is celiac disease?

Question

What is celiac disease?

Everybody thinks they have celiac disease, including me. I mean, I'm not that sick, but I definitely don't feel so good after I eat any large meal of wheat, so does this mean I probably have it? Is the elimination diet a good way to tell if you have it or not?

Answer

Intolerance to different foods is a common problem for many people. The doctors who will be well qualified to discuss this with you include your primary care doctor or your gastroenterologist. Celiac disease is a condition in which the body develops a reaction to "gluten" - certain proteins found in wheat and also barley and rye. This reaction attacks the small intestine, leading to a variety of symptoms. Celiac is extremely common, affecting as many as 1 in every 100 people in the United States. The symptoms are quite varied and can include abdominal pain and bloating, malnutrition, and weight loss, as well as joint and skin symptoms. The symptoms are sustained and do not just occur after eating a "gluten-heavy" meal. Importantly, if you suspect celiac disease you should talk to your doctor. You should NOT try an elimination diet before talking to your doctor, as if it is celiac and you cut out gluten, it will be impossible to diagnose without re-introducing gluten (and causing symptoms all over again). As always the diagnosis and the management of your particular concern will require a physical examination by your personal physician. Setting up an office visit with your primary care doctor or your gastroenterologist is highly advised.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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