Gluten and Lactose Intolerance  

Gastroenterologists treat the full spectrum of digestive tract disorders

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a common diagnosis for individuals with gluten intolerance.  When individuals with celiac disease ingest gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye), it can inflame and damage the lining of the small intestine. This may produce uncomfortable symptoms and prevent nutrient absorption.

Some people with celiac disease experience diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. But for others, there are no digestive symptoms.  Sometimes called “silent celiac disease”, this condition is marked by intestinal damage or villous atrophy, without clear symptoms.

Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to malnourishment and related complications. There is no cure for celiac disease, but it can be managed with diet. Once gluten is removed from your diet, your small intestine can begin to heal. In children, healing can happen as quickly as within six months. In adults and individuals who have lived with symptoms longer, healing can take more time.

Diagnosing Celiac Disease

Some of the most common symptoms of gluten intolerance:

  • Bloating
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Weight loss

To best diagnose celiac disease, your gastroenterologist will take a blood test.  In addition, your GI will also perform an endoscopy and take a small tissue sample to evaluate the damage to your small intestine.  Capsule endoscopy, another minimally-invasive diagnostic procedure, may also be used.

Lactose Intolerance

Individuals who are lactose intolerant have a deficiency of lactase, the enzyme that breaks lactose into two simple sugars—glucose and galactose—which can be absorbed into your bloodstream.

The most common symptoms of lactose intolerance:

  • Bloating
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Nausea

As with celiac disease, there is no cure for lactose intolerance.  However, you can minimize symptoms by avoiding foods containing dairy.

Diagnosing Lactose Intolerance

To diagnose lactose intolerance, your doctor may have you take a simple, non-invasive hydrogen breath test.  After you drink a lactose-loaded beverage, your breath is analyzed over a 90-minute period.  Individuals with lactose intolerance will see breath hydrogen levels rise.

Many symptoms of celiac disease and lactose intolerance closely resemble other digestive tract disorders.  It is important to work with a gastroenterologist to diagnose your symptoms, take the necessary steps to reduce discomfort, and prevent long-term damage to your digestive tract.

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