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Ten Positive Aspects of a Celiac Disease Diagnosis

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Ten Positive Aspects Of A Celiac Disease Diagnosis

snowboardingRevelation  The last time I rode a snowboard was more than ten years ago – prior to my celiac disease diagnosis. After my diagnosis, life got busy and snowboarding was put on the back burner. I was fortunate enough to be back in the mountains recently and back on a board. As I was leaving the mountain for the day, what suddenly struck me was how good I felt. And how much easier it was to ride for an entire day – even though it was ten years and three children later.

The stark difference between now and then: my celiac disease is diagnosed and treated and I am well. How lucky I am compared to the 2.5 million Americans who are still undiagnosed and suffering. Like many others, I lived for years with fatigue and strange symptoms, continually rationalizing the symptoms and telling myself to push on.

Turning the tables  So, I thought this was a perfect time to reflect on the positive aspects of having a celiac diagnosis, a perspective that is rarely addressed in blogs, support groups and books about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. Naturally, the focus of professional and peer support tends to be on the negative aspects of the disease because we all need help with the daily challenges, lack of knowledge in the medical community, ongoing health issues and social misperceptions. But today I would like to turn the tables and focus on the positive aspects of knowing you have celiac disease. How can taking that perspective impact your health and enrich your life?

posiive attitudeWhat a positive attitude can do  Medical literature confirms that attitude and perception have a tangible impact on wellness. For example, one study found that Parkinson’s patients who had a tendency towards optimism had a better quality of life and improved medical and psychological outcomes. If you are a fan of TED talks, as I am, there are many that discuss the effects of positivity on productivity and wellness. Check out this popular TED talk on how happiness inspires us to greater productivity for useful information and a laugh. Laughter is good for the spirit as well.

People with positive attitudes recover faster, are sick less often and are happier. Although there is little scientific data correlating a positive attitude with a better outcome for celiac disease patients, it is reasonable to assume from related studies that a positive attitude about your celiac diagnosis will bring about positive change and improved health. A study by doctors at U.C. San Francisco found that children who had attended a week-long celiac camp demonstrated improvement in well-being, self-perception and emotional outlook.

It’s not all rosy  It is important to remember that not everyone with celiac disease fully recovers their health with only the initiation of the gluten free diet. In fact, up to 40% still suffer from ongoing symptoms for a variety of reasons. For these patients, approaching aspects of their illness in a positive light, when possible, is even more vital. It may give them the fortitude to continue to search for the cause of their persistent symptoms.

Ten reasons to be grateful for your celiac disease diagnosis.

1. You are diagnosed
diagnosis #1It is estimated that 2.5 million people in the United States have celiac disease and are undiagnosed. Diagnosis is the first step to wellness. Be grateful for your path to diagnosis, whether you requested testing or someone else thought to test you.


2. You feel better and have more energy
more energy #2The symptoms of celiac disease vary greatly from one person to the next, but fatigue seems to almost always be present. Improved energy and a decrease in symptoms are undeniably among the top benefits of diagnosis.


3. You have an instant community
instant community #3Many people suffer undiagnosed for years, often in isolation. A diagnosis brings you into a community that can finally understand what you have and are going through. You have an immediate support system through national and local support organizations and online social networks.


4. You may help your children or another family member
help your children or other family#4It is recommended that all first-degree relatives of someone diagnosed with celiac disease be tested, whether or not they have symptoms (that’s children, parents and siblings). Testing of symptomatic second degree relativesis also recommended (grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews). Your diagnosis may help someone you love get diagnosed. I have seen this many times in my medical practice.


5. You may help someone else beyond your family
31047825_sYour diagnosis may help someone you know or even a stranger learn more about celiac disease. Knowledge increases awareness. Awareness increases the number of people properly diagnosed. Conversations like the ones you have with friends and coworkers, at the grocery store, or with restaurant staff, can lead to a diagnosis.


6. You decrease your chance of developing other health conditions
additional health problems#6The initiation and adherence to a strict gluten-free diet decreases your risk of developing conditions associated with celiac disease, such as osteoporosis and other autoimmune conditions. The sooner you are diagnosed, the lower your risk of additional diagnoses.


7. No medications, surgery or shots are required 

no injectionsWhile a gluten-free diet is challenging at first, with time it becomes your norm. No shots, surgery or medications are generally needed. If you consider the treatment for many other chronic diseases, you may feel relatively fortunate.


8. You adopt a healthier lifestyle and learn to cook

Learn-to-cook-8-300x155For many people, a diagnosis means the first time they have ever read labels or started cooking on a regular basis. Hopefully. this steers them to a healthier diet. They may rely less on fast food and consume more whole, unprocessed foods. One can clearly follow an “unhealthy” gluten-free diet by relying on packaged or processed foods, but it is just as easy and less risky to take on the challenge of learning to cook. Even simple recipes can be delicious.


9. You are introduced to foods and cuisines you never tried before
indian food#9Ethnic cuisines such as Indian, Thai and Persian have many naturally gluten-free dishes. Alternative grains such as quinoa, millet, teff and buckwheat may now be part of your culinary vocabulary. You may never have ventured into trying these cuisines and foods without the need for a gluten-free diet.


10. You no longer worry you have a grave or terminal illness
worry about other illnesses#10Those strange, unexplained symptoms you had prior to diagnosis, which may have been attributed by your doctors to a range of causes from stress to psychiatric illness, now have an explanation. They also typically disappear with initiation of a strict gluten-free diet.


Please rest assured that I am not trying to minimize the struggles associated with having celiac disease; some days are difficult and occasional pity parties are allowed. But when those challenging days occur, try to remember these ten reasons to be grateful you are diagnosed. The burden of those difficult days just might lift a little faster.

Past columns by Dr. Burkhart:

April/May 2016: Reasons People Follow a Gluten Free Diet: 7 Types of Gluten Free Dieters 

March 2016: Ten Positive Aspects of a Celiac Disease Diagnosis

February 2016: Gluten Causes Keratosis Pilaris (a.k.a. “Chicken Skin”): Fact or Myth?

January 2016: Fingernail Changes in IBS,Gluten Disorders and Celiac Disease “A window to health”

December 2015: 20 Gluten-Free Gift Ideas: From Budget to Luxury, Sentimental to Practical & More

November 2015: Cold Sores, Canker Sores and Gluten

October 2015: Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity Research: Snippets from ICDS 2015 (Part 2)

September 2015: Celiac and Gluten Sensitivity Research: Ten Snippets from ICDS 2015

July/August 2015: A New Home Test To Monitor Gluten Exposure

June 2015: Six Reasons to Test for Celiac Disease Before Starting a Gluten-Free Diet

May 2015: POTS, Celiac Disease and Gluten: An Undiscovered Connection?

February/March/April 2015: Arsenic in the Gluten-Free Diet: Facts and Tips

December 2014/ January 2015: The Microbiome and Celiac Disease: A Bacterial Connection

November 2014: Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity: The doctor-patient disconnect

October 2014: Should You Trust Gluten-Free Labels?

September 2014: Triggers for celiac disease: One possible answer

July/August 2014: Ten Tips for a Healthier Gluten-Free Diet

June 2014: Back Pain and Gluten

May 2014: Self-Diagnosis of Gluten Sensitivity: Four Alarming Trends

April 2014: Update on Restaurants and Gluten-Free Dining

March 2014: Histamine Intolerance: Could it be causing your symptoms?

February 2014: Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (Reprinted with permission from Sonoma Medicine)

January 2014: Four Vitamin Toxicities on a Gluten-Free Diet

December 2013: Move Over Gluten-Free, Low FODMAP is Next

November 2013: SIBO, Gluten and IBS: What Is The Connection?

October 2013: Pesticides, Wheat and Gluten Sensitivity: What is the Connection?

September 2013: Is gluten really the culprit in gluten sensitivity?

August 2013: Clarifying the Gluten-Free Labeling Rule

June/July 2013: No such thing as Mild Celiac Disease

May 2013: Magnesium Deficiency

April 2013: Six Reasons to test for celiac disease before starting a gluten-free diet

March 2013: Why am I having migraines?

February 2013: What is fructose malabsorption?

January 2013: Educating doctors about celiac disease

December 2012: Are supplements to digest gluten safe and useful?

November 2012: Top 5 reasons for persistent symptoms after Going Gluten Free

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“I have been a patient of Dr. Amy Burkhart for several years. I suffer from Crohn’s disease and was having difficulty in my daily life. After visiting many doctors, all of whom were unable to help me, Dr. Burkhart took the time and patience to create a plan which brought me back to health. I still follow her plan to this day and have been living a normal healthy life. Dr. Burkhart listened to my symptoms along with listening to me, she took her time in preparing a plan which led me to the road for recovery. I cannot thank Dr. Burkhart enough, and I would recommend her to anyone.”

6 months ago

Stone Brewing company Stone Brewing - Napa opened recently in Napa in an historic building adjacent to the river. A great venue to enjoy life! The gluten free menu options are coming (per the manager ) but please visit and inquire about GF options. The more people who show interest and discuss cross contamination the more likely they are to get it right! Wine is available. Maybe they will even consider a GF beer! . ... See MoreSee Less