The Dangers of Self Diagnosis and Coeliac Disease

Why you should not self diagnose

Recently there seems to be a growing trend towards people taking up a gluten free diet without actually being diagnosed as having coeliac disease.

Part of this increase is no doubt down to what seems like a glut of celebrity endorsements for a gluten free diet, Novak Djokovic and Gwyneth Paltrow to name two. With names like these endorsing the diet you can see why some are taking it up and you can fully understand why supermarkets are increasing their range.

The increase in variety on our supermarket shelves is fantastic news to all fellow coeliac sufferers, as we have been forced to forego gluten for evermore and now can easily find gluten free sausages (something which until recently was only by mail order) and the like on the shelves. Some food suppliers are taking it very seriously indeed, Marks and Spencer seem to have made all their sausages gluten free as well as their stuffing and many of their meals.

All things considered it is a very good move for coeliacs everywhere.

However there could be a major downside to this culinary revolution as it seems more and more consumers are turning to a gluten free diet as they believe they suffer from coeliac disease. In other words they have seen a list of symptoms or know someone who has been diagnosed and thought ‘I have the same symptoms as that so I must have coeliac disease as well!’ In other words they have self-diagnosed their condition.

Self-diagnosis can not only prove expensive, since gluten free foods are usually more expensive than their gluten containing counterparts, but also extremely dangerous health wise. Gluten free foods often contain more sugar and fat than their gluten equivalent and this therefore poses a potential weight time bomb, (we are planning an article on the nutritional value of gluten free food in the near future).

Even more serious, however, is the potential that during self-diagnosis a far more serious condition could be overlooked. Coeliac disease has a number of potential symptoms all of which are also symptoms of other, even more serious conditions.

If it turns out that coeliac disease is present, then the follow up visits to the doctor can prove invaluable in testing for other illnesses which are linked to coeliac disease, these linked illnesses can then be caught early and so treated early so reducing any long term problems. For example I was diagnosed with osteoporosis, something which I would never have been tested for (at the age of 41) if it wasn’t for being diagnosed a coeliac.

This is not said to alarm, but rather to make people aware of the potentially lethal consequences concerning self-diagnosis. If you know someone who thinks they have coeliac disease but have never been officially diagnosed please try and convince them to see their doctor as soon as possible.

Coeliac Disease Symptom List

  • Severe or occasional diarrhoea, excessive wind and/or constipation
  • Persistent or unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting
  • Recurrent stomach pain, cramping or bloating
  • Any combination of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency
  • Anaemia
  • Tiredness and/or headaches
  • Sudden or unexpected weight loss (but not in all cases)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Hair loss (alopecia)
  • Skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • Tooth enamel problems
  • Depression
  • Infertility
  • Liver abnormalities
  • Repeated miscarriages
  • Joint and/or bone pain
  • Neurological (nerve) problems such as ataxia (poor muscle coordination) and neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the hands and feet)
  • Amenorrhoea (lack of periods in women)

List taken from coeliac.org.uk

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