Health Canada recognizes Celiac disease as one of the most common chronic diseases world-wide
Celiac disease is much more common that we previously thought. It affects 1 in 133 Canadians. But, up to 90% of those with Celiac disease don’t know they have it. That’s a problem because there are long term health consequences when someone who’s celiac continues to eat gluten.
Celiac disease can affect people at any age – not just kids. It’s more common in relatives of those with Celiac disease, and, it occurs twice as frequently in women than men.
Unlike an anaphylactic food allergy, the immune reaction Celiacs experience when they eat gluten is not immediately life threatening. Symptoms can even be delayed for 1-3 days after eating gluten.
Symptoms of Celiac disease vary by age and don’t always involve the digestive system.
Older people with celiac disease are frequently misdiagnosed.
A survey of elderly patients with celiac disease showed that many of them were misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for many years. On average, there was a 17 year delay in the diagnosis of celiac disease in this group.
What’s Celiac disease?
Celiac disease results in a dysfunction of the immune system in the small intestine. Over time damage to the small intestine prevents proper absorption of many nutrients. The intestine can heal with removal of gluten from the diet. However, if you’re celiac, the damage recurs if gluten is reintroduced into your diet.
With Celiac disease – genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger. There’s a genetic susceptibility to Celiac disease and when you eat gluten this results in the development of the disease.
Autoimmune disorders, where your immune system begins to attack your own body’s tissues, are 3-10 times more common in celiac patients and 5 times more common in their family members, compared with the general population.
One theory is that celiac disease results in more immune activation, more inflammation in the small intestine, a “leaky gut”, and your immune system then begins to attack other tissues in your body.
The risk of autoimmune diseases and cancers like lymphomas increases, increases with age and the number of years you’ve eaten gluten.
Celiac disease: How it looks in younger, middle aged and older people
Younger people with Celiac disease can have abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhea, and fat in the stool. Celiac disease is also linked with Type 1 diabetes in younger individuals.
Middle aged adults often have autoimmune thyroid disease, iron-deficiency, and low bone density.
Older people can have nutritional deficiencies or problems with their nervous system. They can also experience an itchy rash with bumps and blisters called dermatitis herpetiformis. Despite their iron being low, their ferritin (a protein that stores iron) can be high because of higher levels of inflammation. Older people with Celiac disease can also have problems with balance and coordination. They can also experience altered sensation or numbness, as well as decreased mental function. This can increase their risk of falling.
Celiac disease is also linked with
Celiac disease is also linked with: recurrent miscarriages, infertility, short stature (someone who is shorter than 98% of people for their age and sex), starting your period later and hitting menopause earlier, canker sores, low bone density, autoimmune conditions of the liver, nutritional deficiencies (B12, B6, Iron, Copper, Zinc, Carnitine, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K), depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Talk to your healthcare provider for individualized advice regarding Celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity.