Senior Living Care Blog

Celiac Disease in Older Adults

Posted by Joe Gilmore on Feb 6, 2019 11:00:00 AM

Celiac disease is a common problem, not only in young people, but in older individuals as well. According to the National Institutes of Health, the problem affects about one in every 141 Americans, although most don’t know that they have it. However, it should be noted that one-third of new patients diagnosed are over the age of 65. But, there is some evidence that this number may be increasing, one study says that the incidence of celiac disease in seniors aged 65 and older has increased from 4 percent to 19 percent to 34 percent.


Despite how common the disease is, it can still come with many health risks and can lead to damage of the small intestine. However, there is a common method for countering celiac disease, going gluten-free. Gluten is the cause of celiac disease, and when consumed it leads to the symptoms associated with the disease and the damage of the small intestine.


If celiac disease is not taken care of, it can lead to serious health risks. If you or a loved one begins seeing some signs that are associated with the disease, it is best to see a doctor to check if there may be a problem.



What is Celiac Disease?

A field a wheat. Wheat is one of the main ingredients in gluten, along with barley

Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that is triggered by eating foods with gluten. The disease damages the small intestine. The disease can be very serious and cause long-lasting digestive problems which can prevent the body from obtaining the nutrients it needs. The problem is also known to affect body parts outside of the intestine.


Gluten is a protein found naturally in wheat and barley and is common in bread, pasta, cookies, and cakes.


Despite the problem being caused by gluten, celiac disease is different than a gluten sensitivity or wheat intolerance. For gluten sensitivity, the symptoms may be similar like abdominal pain, but the problem will not damage the small intestine.


Celiac disease affects every person differently, but some common symptoms associated with the disease include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating


Celiac disease can be diagnosed a number of ways including through medical and family history, a physical exam, dental exam, blood test, intestinal biopsy, and more. If you are experiencing some of the symptoms that are common with celiac disease, your best bet is to consult your doctor to find out what the problem is and figure out a path forward.



Treatment Options

Doctors will generally treat celiac disease with a gluten-free diet, as gluten is the compound that triggers a reaction to to celiac disease. For most people who implement a gluten-free diet, the symptoms greatly improve. In recent years many grocery stores and restaurants have begun to add more gluten-free foods and products, making it even easier to continue a gluten-free diet.


For some older individuals, a diet change may prove to be difficult. For one, patients generally have had a life-time diet habit, and breaking that habit may be hard. Similarly, they may have limited financial resources which can limit their ability to buy from gluten-free suppliers.


Older patients are encouraged to seek out the help of friends to loved ones to help them change their dietary habits. Having someone help you prepare your meals or learn how to spot foods with gluten can be beneficial.


In some cases, your doctor may refer you to or suggest that you see a dietitian who can help teach you how to avoid gluten while maintaining a healthy diet. It is also important for follow up visits with medical professionals to check for other problems that may be related to a change in diet. Problems like, anemia, calcium and vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, and thyroid and liver disease may come up. If thi is the case, you may be encouraged to begin taking supplements that can help with some of the problems.


Changing your diet can improve symptoms but it may take a few days or weeks before progress is seen. However, for most adults, the small intestine usually takes several years to heal fully.


Moving toward a gluten-free diet may be all you need to see changes, however avoiding products that contain gluten like some cosmetics and hair products can help if the diet doesn’t fix everything.


Sometimes the gluten-free diet doesn’t work, if this is the case, it may be a sign that you have another condition that may be common with celiac disease. Some other problems that are commonly associated with celiac disease include irritable bowel syndrome, dysfunction of the pancreas, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. If the problem doesn’t go away with a diet change, contact your doctor immediately to find out if another problem may exist.



In Conclusion

Celiac disease, despite being a common problem even for older adults, can prove to be problematic and a health risk. There are a number of symptoms associated with the disease, such as vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea, however, the disease will also damage the small intestine. The most common way to treat celiac disease is to go gluten-free. Most symptoms will disappear after a few days or weeks of a gluten free diet, but small intestine damage will not go away for a few years in most older adults.


Celiac disease is a major problem that affects many people and, if not taken seriously, it can lead to health problems. However, going gluten-free may be hard for some older individuals, especially if they are living independently. Sometimes, it is best to enlist the help of a caregiver or search for assisted living facilities that can help with the new lifestyle. At Landmark Senior Living, our staff knows how to help you when you need it and can provide not only the medical care that you deserve, but can also make this chapter in your life more enjoyable through social events and activities. If you are interested to learn more about being a resident at Landmark Senior Living Communities, please take a look at our website and reach out to our admissions staff today.



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Topics: Senior Health

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