Celiac Disease in Older Adults & Seniors
Gluten-free diets are all the rage right now, but for someone suffering from Celiac Disease, it’s much more than a lifestyle choice. Celiac disease oftentimes goes undiagnosed for many years due to the wide variety of symptoms associated with it, which is why we should be more aware of the causes, symptoms and of course, myths surrounding it that may lead to faster diagnosis for millions of Americans of all ages. Here are some of those myths, and facts you need to know to stay educated about this growing issue:
1. Celiac disease is a food allergy
CD is actually an autoimmune condition that occurs when a person has both a genetic predisposition to it, combined with environmental factors.
2. Celiac is only diagnosed in children
For a long time, celiac disease was associated as a “childhood disease”, and very rarely diagnosed in older adults and especially seniors. Yet recent studies and developments have shown that seniors are especially prone to developing the disease over time, which has resulted in greater attention and study to CD in all age groups.
3. A stomach ache, bloating and flatulence are the only symptoms of gluten sensitivity
While each of the symptoms above may occur in those with celiac disease, the wide spectrum of symptoms and indications of CD goes far beyond cases of mild gluten sensitivity or other causes of stomach aches, abdominal pain and even diarrhea. Other symptoms include calcium and Vitamin D deficiency, and especially in seniors, celiac disease can cause dermatitis or herpetiformis – a painful skin rash, as well as thyroid disorders.
4. All I need is a regular blood test to diagnose my CD
Blood tests are a must when it comes to diagnosing CD, yet it is definitely more difficult to diagnose it among elderly adults given the wide array of symptoms and other diseases that may produce similar symptoms and that may hide the CD-specific symptoms. Given this, always be vocal about all symptoms and changes to you and your loved one’s health, and if your blood test is positive, it must be followed by an intestinal biopsy to be sure. So don’t jump the gun and switch to a gluten-free diet unless prescribed by your doctor following all appropriate tests.
5. What if I’ve eaten gluten all these years, and felt fine? If I did have CD, I can still eat gluten, right?
Be aware that CD may be silent in seniors, which means that they may never even experience common symptoms like stomach aches or severe bloating. If you do have CD, continuing to eat gluten will harm your body over time and contribute to a development of other autoimmune diseases. Don’t run the risk of developing serious health complications and even mortality.
No matter how late you are diagnosed with CD or gluten sensitivity, switching to a gluten-free diet can save your life no matter how old you are. While many people transitioning to gluten-free diets do so because of personal choices, for example, to lose weight, be aware that it is not suitable for everyone, as it can seriously limit the amount of critical vitamins, minerals and fiber your body needs to function.