Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that generally effects those in their childhood, teen, and young adult years. Those with Celiac have a reaction to gliadin, a protein contained in wheat and other common grains such as rye and barley. Gluten is hidden in many of the foods we commonly eat so those with sensitivity or celiac need to be very mindful when dining out and purchasing food items. Recently it has been found that there is a significant increase in the detection of celiac in the elderly. According to the NIH, 25% of celiac patients were first diagnosed in the 7th decade in the US, Canada, and Northern Europe.
Symptoms to be aware of and potential complications:
1. GI symptoms: primarily diarrhea, weight loss, lactose intolerance, and bloating. Some people may also show a malabsorption of certain nutrients such as iron, calcium and vitamins A, D, E , and K.
2. Iron deficiency anemia
3. Autoimmune disorders
4. Bone diseases
5. intestinal disease
6. Higher incidence of cancers
7. Cardiovascular disease (cardiomyopathy, angina, coronary artery disease, heart failure)
Often times a diagnosis is not made early due to vague symptoms and a lack of clinical focus on the part of clinicians. In addition, some diagnostics may be difficult to complete for some elderly individuals.
Patients at any age should seek guidance from a gastrointestinal specialist when experiencing these issues, as they are the best physicians to assess, manage and treat any disease processes.
Remember to be vocal, ask questions, express your concerns, and mention Celiac disease to your practitioner, as often times it is missed or overlooked when assessing individuals.