Many don't know they have celiac disease

September 13, 2011 6:46:25 PM PDT
About 3 million Americans suffer from celiac disease, yet studies show that close to 95 percent of people who have it don't know or they're misdiagnosed.

Experts say it's time to learn the symptoms - and get help. Thirty-six year old Rachelle Juquay was first diagnosed in 1993.

"I became very ill. They hospitalized me and after two weeks they came to the conclusion that I had celiac," she recalled.

Juquay was forced to change her eating habits to get healthy and began a gluten free diet. Gluten is a protein found it wheat, barley, and rye.

That diet lasted for about two months, and for years Juquay felt fine eating whatever she wanted - until about six months ago.

"I started having problems again: joint pain, fatigue, iron deficiency, other vitamin deficiencies, headaches, very bad headaches," Juquay said.

Juquay is now back on a gluten free diet and constantly reading labels, looking out for what she can't eat.

"Wheat, wheat flour, wheat starch, barley, anything that says malt," Juquay explained.

Alice Bast, founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, is working to raise awareness of celiac disease - hoping to reduce the time it takes to diagnose the illness.

"I was misdiagnosed for eight years before finally a veterinarian properly diagnosed me with celiac disease and at celiac.org we have a check list. So if you're misdiagnosed with migraine headaches or infertility, a simple blood test is the first step to being properly diagnosed with celiac disease," said Bast.

Heightened awareness has led to more gluten free options at the grocery store. That's something Juquay - an active, working mom - is grateful for.

"You have to look at the labels. I cook. I try to cook. I'm always reading labels and a lot of times it will say gluten free, so that's always a plus," she said.

Undiagnosed celiac disease can lead to other serious problems like infertility, reduced bond density, neurological problems and even cancer. Learn more at celiac.org.

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