Celiac disease is a digestive disorder wherein the immune system is sensitive to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. This sensitivity causes the small intestine to become damaged because it cannot absorb the nutrients properly. Celiac disease is becoming a common condition, however, it's still underdiagnosed in children because the methods used to detect it can be invasive and might prove risky for people who might not have the disorder after all.
One of the reasons why celiac disease is hard to diagnose is because its symptoms can be quite common.
"Some kids cannot put weight on, some of them can have just a very bloated abdomen, they can have diarrhea and they can be very, very sick. Some just have abdominal pain, they just have belly aches intermittently," says Dr. Libia Moy, NYU pediatric gastroenterologist. "One of the symptoms can be just fatigue, or it can be iron deficiency, anemia."
However, it was recently discovered that celiac disease can be detected in children with the help of growth screenings. This discovery is the result of a study conducted by researchers who formulated calculations using a child's height and weight. They were able to detect the disease in 84 percent of boys and 88 percent of girls with the disorder. The findings were published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics.
"[A] well-established growth-monitoring program could facilitate the early diagnosis of celiac disease," the researchers said. "Consequently, we recommend systematic growth screening as a primary method for the early detection of chronic disorders that affect growth, such as celiac disease."
Dr. Peter Green, the director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York City, was not involved in the study but he agrees with the findings. "I think the paper highlights the fact that there are ways to diagnose [celiac disease] early. We're looking for a way to increase diagnosis from a very low baseline."
As for dealing with celiac disease, there are now gluten-free alternatives for people who are sensitive to gluten. However, doctors warn that people should be tested for celiac disease before eating gluten-free food because the symptoms might be caused by another condition altogether. Doctors have also said that eating gluten-free products might deprive your body of the nutrients that it needs to function. They add that giving up gluten may also facilitate weight gain because gluten-free products are higher in fat, calories and sugar.
[Main image via Today's Parent]