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The celiac patient: Our role in referral, diagnosis and treatment

Wheat, barley and rye are my arch nemeses. Since being diagnosed with celiac disease in 2014, I look for these common food ingredients in everything I eat. Every single meal. Every single day. Luckily, I am not alone. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder estimated to affect one in 141 people in the United States, according to the October 2012 issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology, and most people don’t know they have it.

Glutenin and gliadin compose gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Glutenin is comparable to glue, giving gluten strength and elasticity. Gliadin triggers an autoimmune response. Celiac patient’s antibodies attack more than just the gliadin found in gluten; they attack the villi of their small intestines. This leads to bloating, fatigue, constipation, chronic diarrhea, iron-deficient anemia, peripheral neuropathy, intra-oral sores, dental enamel defects, dermatitis herpetiformis and, ultimately, malnutrition and a leaky gut, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. While there is no cure, a gluten-free diet will relieve symptoms, lead to soft-tissue repair and stop the destructive process.

The year preceding my diagnosis was stressful. Between teaching high school full-time, taking the DAT and preparing my application for dental school, my health was not my top priority. But my body had other plans. Pink, raised papules would wax and wane on my stomach. Fatigue and lethargy were at an all-time high. Neuropathy in my hands and legs happened so often I forgot it wasn’t normal. Aphthous ulcers became as common as checking my mail (11 ulcers at once was my record). And without getting into too much detail, my bathroom habits were far from normal.

I eventually convinced myself it wasn’t just stress. A gastroenterologist took a blood sample and told me my tTG-IGA antibody count was 10 times that of the average person. The diagnosis? Celiac disease. The only treatment? Cut gluten.

Read the rest of this article in the September 2018 issue of Contour magazine.

~Anna Hill-Moses, Tennessee ’19, District 4 Trustee and Chapter Secretary

Anna E. Hill-Moses

Anna is a fourth-year dental student at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She grew up in Connecticut and has enjoyed the transition of consistently having sweet tea available. She serves as the District 4 trustee and UTHSC ASDA secretary. Before dental school, she completed two years of teaching with Teach for American in San Antonio, Texas. In her free time, Anna enjoys swimming, baking and loving on her cats.

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