Celiac disease, a gastrointestinal disorder that may affect up to 3 million people in the US, has long been underdiagnosed and undertreated. The Wall St. Journal has an interesting article today exploring why that is so. The bottom line: celiac can be completely alleviated by avoiding gluten, so there is no real need for a pharmaceutical product or medical treatment once the disease is diagnosed. As a result there has been little funding for the disorder and patients often go for decades not understanding what’s wrong with them. The Journal article says that celiacs experience symptoms for 11 years on average before they are diagnosed. Along the way they may end up being treated for all kinds of other things that they don’t actually have.
The article doesn’t mention it, but the food industry is responding and may be the key to improving the situation. For example, Whole Foods has many products certified as gluten free and an entire section devoted to Celiac on its website. Consumer resources such as the Gluten Guard databank help consumers find gluten free foods. Consumers can even use a handheld barcode scanner to check on products in the supermarket.
It’s probably healthier for everyone if celiac is addressed outside of the medical establishment.December 9, 2005