Do You Have Celiac Disease?

Migraines, diarrhea, chronic fatigue and weight loss — all symptoms caused by a disease most people have never heard of — celiac disease. Doctors say more than 1 million Americans have it, and many don’t know it.

Watching Toni Orlando busy at work, you’d never know she has an incurable disease. It’s one you rarely hear about, and the symptoms can be embarrassing.

“The diarrhea, the bloating, the gas, it was so bad at times to where I didn’t even feel comfortable leaving the house,” explains Toni. She has celiac disease, a chronic disease of the intestines that won’t let sufferers absorb gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

Toni says, “I had no idea what gluten was. I’d never heard of it before.”

Gluten is found in a lot of products including pasta, ice cream, breads and even toothpaste — a lot of the products Toni sells.

Ronald Fogel, M.D. says, “If doctors don’t think of it, they won’t make the diagnosis.”

Dr. Fogel is a gastroenterologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. He believes the disease is hard to diagnose because the symptoms are so common.

“Patients may be considered to be hypothyroid. They may be considered to have eating disorders. They may be worked up for inflammatory bowel disease. They may be worked up for cancer,” says Dr. Fogel.

It’s estimated one in every 250 people have celiac disease. The only way to treat it is to avoid gluten altogether. Toni manages to avoid it most of the time. And she’s grateful after suffering for eight years, she finally got a diagnosis.

“It was a relief because I knew I wasn’t going crazy that there was really something there,” she says.

Experts say it’s hard to find gluten listed on food labels. It’s sometimes labeled hydrogenated or vegetable protein. A blood test can detect celiac disease.

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