Why We Overlook Celiac and Gluten Sensitivity

Brain Blood Flow Gives Clues to Treating Depression
August 11, 2007
Hard Evidence: Gluten Sensitivity and Neurologic Impairment
August 18, 2007

Gluten Sensitivity Is More Than Celiac
Psych presentations frequently have treatable underlying medical problems:

Bowel and Brain

This is the first in a series of celiac and gluten sensitivity reports taken directly from an interesting series of posts by Dr Scot Lewey, a gastroenterologist who “gets it” with gluten sensitivity. and regularly reports on the downstream psych and neurological effects. In this post he describes why and how we miss this important medical consideration.

This summary comes from a group of excellent posts at Ezine Articles.

“Doctors frequently fail to diagnose a very common condition known as Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. The average delay in diagnosis is 11 years in adults. There are several reasons for this delay. Celiac disease was once considered to be rare and affect only young children. This is what most doctors practicing today were taught in medical school and they are unaware of how the spectrum of Celiac disease has changed.

“Screening blood donors only recently confirmed Celiac disease occurs in 1 in 133 people in the U.S. Most physicians are unaware of this for several reasons:

Celiac disease is treated by a gluten-free diet not a drug. Drug companies subsidize much of the continuing medical education received by doctors and most of the medical research in the United States. Without drug company money and marketing, Celiac disease does not appear in medical journal ads or get mentioned by drug reps detailing doctors. It is rarely a topic of major conferences or research grant proposals. It is a disease that is largely “out of sight, out of mind” for most doctors.

And in addition:

Doctors who actually remember Celiac disease envision in their mind a
very young, pale, emaciated child with skinny limbs and a big
“potbelly” like the picture they were shown years ago in medical
school. The medical history linked with this image is a malnourished
child that is not growing and has numerous, bulky, and foul smelling
diarrheal stools. Surveys of primary care providers have confirmed that
most are unaware that Celiac occurs in adults. If they do think it
could occur in adults they do not believe it can occur in someone who
is overweight and constipated or has no intestinal symptoms.

I frequently see these kids in my office with thin limbs, potbelly, exhaustion, signs of chronic fatigue and ADD, and a disproportionately big head. They may or may not have depressive symptoms. Measurable adrenal fatigue often appears with these symptoms.

Back to Dr Lewey's post:

Some docs lack awareness that symptoms such as fatigue, bone and joint pain,
headaches, and skin rashes are common in Celiac. Most are also unaware
that it is associated with other autoimmune conditions like thyroid
disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Malabsorption
complications such as anemia and osteoporosis are often not recognized
as common presentations of untreated Celiac disease
. Over 250 symptoms
involving nearly every part of the body have been reported in Celiac
Unless you provide your doctor distinct clues such as a family
history of Celiac or mention the possibility that you think you might
be gluten sensitive they do not even consider the possibility of it to
be the cause of your being ill.

As you know from my own previous posts I have frequently been addressing the gluten sensitivity part of the picture, as full blown celiac with all the positive bowel findings and undeniable positive labs often occurs much later in the disease presentation [or not at all].

Stay with us more on gluten sensitivity and specific testing soon.


  1. D1234,
    So many just need some growing time to see the difference. Some never get it, and just remain lost until ~ 22-25 yo. Only hint I can give is to go to Amazon and look over all the books about kids and these diets, and many have much more comprehensive advice… and I don’t have a favorite.

  2. D1234 says:

    Do you have any suggestions for getting kids on board with a GFCF diet?  Explaining what it does to their body doesn’t seem to influence their impulse decisions on what to put in their mouth.  My ten year old does not appreciate the severity and tells me that when hes older he will go back to eating what he wants. ughh  It’s a constant battle. I point out the connection of how he feels with what hes putting in his body but the addiction is very strong.

  3. Carol Tonne says:

    Much Thanks to You Doctor Parker for Your Beautiful Mind and Your Kind Ways!
    Your Work is Well Appreciated!
    You are like a breath of fresh air that I am so happy to see in the medical profession.
    Thank You & God Bless You for All You Do for the Good of Another without Benefit to You!
    I Smile when I think of You!

  4. jenortega says:

    I read about the link between gluten and depression. I decided to try a gluten-free diet. Within two days my depression disappeared. I am now discovering an intolerance to corn and dairy. I have never felt better. I am not celiac and I had a test for food allergies and gluten never showed up.

  5. Indigo Rose-
    Please be patient with your docs… someone there could be getting it right! I have missed this confusing set of symptoms for years, and yes “bipolar” can be significantly amplified by gluten sensitivity.

    And the very best news is: with that inevitable slow and steady change in your diet, yes, you could be feeling much better, and meds can likely be diminished down the road – depending, of course, on your doctors experience with your response to the diet.

    You will be interested in this post from months back on the same issue, more serious problems reported in, of all places, the Annals of Int. Med:

    Hope it all works for you, – stand strong!

  6. Indigo Rose says:

    I have been diagnosed with bipolar 1, severe migraines, terrible digestive problems and now Celiac? Could all this have been Celiac all along? They have me on Lithium, Wellbutrin, Topomax (which has glutin in it) DHEA, Thyroid Hormone, and Prevecid??? Can diet change my health? Of course the doctors all want me to be bipolar and migraine dependant on all their meds! I’m so tired of being sick all the time! HELP!!!!!

  7. Ana-
    Your note is most welcome, as I do appreciate the confirmation that all *bipolar* is not “bipolar.” Have seen so many really delusional and overtly psychotic folks get well by simply fixing the bowel and the gluten – casein sensitivity.

    Really super docs that got the celiac! The tough one: silent celiac with emotional symptoms.

    Just on the phone last night with a patient in Boston. He sounded so metabolic: Diarrhea for 2 weeks, exhaustion, hot spots on his skin and chills all over, liver profile off – but not completely sick. Major depression, major stress, all looked so *psychological.*

    After much review and digging he told me: My father was a pharmacist. He used Lomotil his whole life, my mother always had GERD, and “Honestly doc, I have always kept my Lomotil by my side where ever I go!!! Bingo!

    Working him up. He will not have “celiac,” he will have only signs of gluten sensitivity on the labcorp testing, and can’t afford enterolab.com…what to do?

    Do the labcorp review, and go on an elimination diet anyway… stay tuned. This is so interesting.

    BTW, we did suggest a change in his psych meds – just not working, needed changing for the short term.

  8. Ana Lora says:

    My daughter (age 9) was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ADD, hypoglycemia and Celiac disease. Once we eliminated gluten, candy, pop, chocolate, cows milk and cheddar cheese, her mood swings diappeared. That was five months ago. She no longer takes medication for mood disorder and no longer has any stomach problems. She still takes ADD meds at this point.

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