GF 101: Part One (See a Doctor)

Think you might have celiac disease or gluten intolerance? You're in good company. Nearly two million Americans have celiac disease, and many more have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (maybe as many as six percent of American adults). So, where do you start?

You could start where I did - confused, picking up random books willy-nilly, relying on Google, and full of doubt. Let me tell you, it's not the best approach, unless you want to get frustrated, confused, and do more work than you need to.

But there's a better way. The first thing you should do is see a doctor. If your primary care physician can't do the tests, get him or her to refer you to a gasteroenterologist. Do this before you start a gluten free diet. Read this, print it out, write down your symptoms, even if they sound silly, and discuss them with the doc. Know which tests to ask for (blood tests and endoscopy), but don't start eating gluten free just yet.

Seriously, you need to see a doctor. Besides just knowing what's up with your body, you'll save yourself a ton of misery later. Why's that? Well, when you go in for one of these tests, you have to be eating gluten. The blood tests can show a couple of things: whether you are currently reacting to gluten, and whether you have the genetic marker for celiac disease (which doesn't mean you automatically have the disease, and you could even have the disease if you don't have the marker). The endoscopy looks at your insides, and compares them to what a healthy person's looks like. For both, you need to be eating gluten fro at least five or six weeks. If you start eating gluten free and feel great, you won't want to do this. So go make that doctor's appointment now.

Don't like doctors? Feel nervous about this? Don't worry. It's your body, and you deserve to feel healthy. You deserve to have people take you seriously. And it's your doctor's job to listen to your concerns about your body and your health. Feel like your doctor's not listening? Ask for a second opinion. It's your right. Really. This is for you. You'll be glad you did it.

Still reading? Still haven't made that appointment? What are you waiting for? Make an appointment with your doctor today!

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