Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is gluten the cause of my stomach pain?"
I just don't feel good when I eat wheat. Should I get evaluated for celiac?
Gluten-sensitive enteropathy, or celiac disease, is a condition in which the body's immune system attacks gluten, a substance found in many grains including wheat, barley and rye. The reaction of the body to gluten damages the lining of the small intestine, which is very important in the proper digestion of nutrients. This damage can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, malnutrition (such as iron deficiency), and diarrhea. If you feel like you may be having adverse effects to wheat or other gluten-containing products, then you should consult with your primary care physician. There are certain blood tests (looking for special antibodies) that can be used as screening for celiac disease. If these are positive, then a trial of gluten-free food may be prescribed. It may take several weeks to months for symptoms to resolve completely if they are in fact due to gluten sensitivity. If the blood tests are positive, you may also be referred to a gastroenterologist for further work-up including an upper endoscopy. In this test, the lining of the small intestine can be viewed with a small camera-scope that is passed through the mouth. A piece of the intestine can be sampled and can confirm the diagnosis of celiac disease. Again, please discuss with your doctor for more information.
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