Improving celiac care
Following several months of research, discussions and consultations, the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) is celebrating 2016 Celiac Disease Awareness Month with the unveiling of a detailed algorithm to be distributed to all family doctors across Canada. With awareness and understanding of celiac disease varying greatly within the medical community, the result until now has been a hodgepodge of treatment and follow-up plans that leads to confusion and, in many cases, continued illness and suffering.
The new best practices algorithm, developed by the CCA’s Professional Advisory Council, aims to bridge this gap by clearly outlining the diagnosis and follow-up regimen for a Canadian with celiac disease.
“We hear it all too often,” said Anne Wraggett, CCA president. “Some doctors give the patient their diagnosis and simply send them on their way. Others recognize the need to monitor vitamin and mineral absorption levels, watch out for bone density problems, and be aware of the connection between celiac disease and other serious disorders such as type 1 diabetes and thyroid disease.”
“This is all about creating a standardized regimen, based as much as possible on evidence-based medicine,” added Sue Newell, operations manager for CCA. “We hope that this will lead to a consistent approach among all medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, gastroenterologists and other medical professionals. We need everyone ‘singing from the same songbook’ on this, so those diagnosed with celiac disease get the support they need.”
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. As a result, the body is unable to absorb nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health. An estimated one percent of Canadians are affected by celiac disease and an estimated additional five percent of Canadians suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which is an intolerance rather than an autoimmune disease but nevertheless requires a gluten-free diet.
Symptoms of celiac disease can include gastrointestinal distress, migraines, fatigue, extremely itchy skin rashes and more, or there may be no overt symptoms at all. For celiacs to continue to ingest gluten puts them at risk of serious associated medical conditions, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, infertility and malnutrition.
Medical professionals, patients and others can download the best practices algorithm from the CCA website (celiac.ca), which also contains up-to-date scientific information and details of CCA’s programs to support all Canadians with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.