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Celiac Disease

If eating foods containing wheat and other grains makes you sick to your stomach, you may have celiac disease. This condition causes inflammation in your intestines that can make it difficult to get the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. 

Washington University Physicians at Barnes-Jewish Hospital deliver an accurate diagnosis along with the latest treatments. People turn to us to relieve celiac symptoms that do not respond to standard therapies. 

And local doctors regularly refer patients to us who have difficult-to-treat forms of IBD. We deliver effective care that helps you feel more like your old self again.

What Is Celiac Disease?

If you have celiac disease, you are sensitive to gluten, which is a protein in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. When you consume foods that contain gluten, it triggers an immune system response leading to inflammation. Over time, the inflammation can damage the lining of your intestines. 

This damage makes it difficult for your body to absorb nutrients from food and puts you at risk for other conditions, such as malnutrition. A gluten-free diet helps many people get rid of the inflammation and achieve long-term relief from celiac symptoms. 

Celiac Disease Care: Why Choose Us?

We offer the care you need in one program, including an accurate diagnosis and treatment options that are not widely available. You also receive support from nutritionists and psychologists to help you achieve wellness. These therapies help people manage celiac symptoms and improve their quality of life. 

Our program includes:

  • Team approach: We work together to help you feel better. Doctors with specialized training in celiac disease coordinate your care. Nutritionists develop personalized diet recommendations to help you avoid complications. And our focus on your well-being includes support from a psychologist specializing in digestive disorders. Find a digestive disease specialist.
  • Accurate diagnosis: Celiac disease can be challenging to diagnose because the symptoms mirror other conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease. A pathologist who specializes in digestive problems analyzes tissue samples to diagnose celiac disease with a high degree of accuracy.
  • Latest treatments: Our participation in research gives you access to treatments that are only available in leading programs such as ours. Find out more about IBD clinical trials

Celiac Disease Symptoms

Celiac disease symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss

Celiac disease symptoms can lead to complications that may include: 

Gluten Sensitivity and Other Conditions We Treat

We deliver exceptional care for conditions with symptoms similar to celiac disease, including: 

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): This group of conditions stems from an abnormal immune system response that causes inflammation in your intestines. You experience symptoms, regardless of whether you are consuming gluten. If you have celiac disease, you face a higher risk of developing IBD. Learn more about inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Gluten sensitivity: You experience mild celiac disease symptoms. And the symptoms go away quickly once you remove gluten from your diet. With gluten sensitivity, symptoms do not damage the lining of your intestines.
  • Gluten intolerance: The symptoms you experience are more severe and last longer than with gluten sensitivity. But similar to gluten sensitivity, there is no damage to the lining of your intestines.
  • Refractory celiac disease: You may have this condition if you test positive for celiac disease and the intestinal damage does not heal — even after eliminating gluten.

Testing and Diagnosis for Celiac Disease

Diagnosing celiac disease often requires several tests, including:

  • Blood tests: We check a sample of your blood for celiac antibodies. These blood proteins indicate an immune system response to gluten. For accurate results, it’s important to consume foods containing gluten in the weeks leading up to the test.
  • Endoscopy: Doctors pass a specialized tube with a tiny camera down your throat to examine the lining of your intestines. You receive medication to help you stay comfortable during this outpatient procedure.
  • Biopsy: During an endoscopy, we take a small sample of tissue from your intestines and examine it under a microscope. A biopsy is the most effective way to confirm a celiac disease diagnosis. 

Celiac Disease Treatments

Many people achieve symptom relief by eliminating gluten from their diet. Eating a gluten-free diet also relieves inflammation and allows your intestines to heal. 

Our team develops a personalized care plan that may include: 

  • Nutrition therapy: Our digestive health nutritionist helps you find gluten-free foods you enjoy. We also help you avoid hidden sources of gluten, such as certain medications, toothpaste and food additives.
  • Medications: Prescription drugs, along with a gluten-free diet, can help control symptoms.
  • Support: Living with celiac disease can cause feelings of anxiety that make it difficult to live your life. Our psychologist teaches you coping techniques to push past unpleasant thoughts and feelings so you can regain peace of mind.
  • Screening tests: We perform regular testing to check for signs of complications. You may need blood tests to check for anemia or malnutrition. And we may perform an endoscopy and biopsy to determine whether your intestines are healing. 

More Information About a Gluten-Free Diet

If you are experiencing celiac disease symptoms, you may be tempted to put yourself on a gluten-free diet. But it’s important to work with a nutritionist to develop a healthy eating plan. 

Going gluten-free on your own may prevent you from getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Gluten-free foods can also be high in sugar and calories, raising your risk for problems such as weight gain and constipation. 

The best way to know whether a gluten-free diet is right for you is by receiving an expert evaluation. We confirm or rule out celiac disease, so you know whether you need to eliminate gluten. And if you do, our doctors and nutritionist explain how to go gluten-free while lowering your risk of complications. 

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a Washington University IBD specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 855.925.0631.

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