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Testing for Celiac Disease in Patients With Surgical Abdominal Pain


Photo: CC/Evil Erin

Celiac.com 07/08/2010 - Acute abdominal pain is the most common symptom leading to emergency surgery; accounting for up to 50% of emergency surgical admissions and nonspecific abdominal pain (NSAP) likely accounts for 40% of the cases. While abdominal pain can often be a symptom of celiac disease, up until this point there have been no official studies to determine the  the association of celiac disease and abdominal pain.

A group of researchers in the UK attempted to uncover the connection between celiac disease and abdominal pain. Using a case-controlled study of 300 consecutive, new, and unselected patients exhibiting acute abdominal pain, and a healthy control group not presenting any abdominal pain, were matched by age and gender and then assessed accordingly.

Initially, the research team under Dr. David S. Sanders of the Gastroenterology and Liver Unit, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK,  used immunoglobulins, IgA/IgG anti-gliadin (ADA), and endomysial antibodies (EMA) to evaluate the test subjects for celiac disease. Any of the test subjects that tested with a positive IgA,  AGA, EMA or IgG AGA accompanied by IgA deficiency was provided with the opportunity to receive a small bowel biopsy to confirm a celiac diagnosis; only 1 person declined.

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Among the acute abdominal pain demographic, the median age range was 57 years old and exactly half of the 300 participants were female. All test patients were given an initial biochemical, hematologic, and immunologic profile. Of the patients tested, 33 with abdominal pain had either a positive IgA gliadin antibody, EMA or a combination of both. Of those 33 patients, 9 had histologically proven celiac disease.  Among the healthy control group, 2 people were discovered to have celiac disease.

Researchers matched case controls and then determined the antibody status of the control group and the abdominal pain group. While there were no corresponding  pairs, the statistical chance of having celiac disease when demonstrating acute abdominal pain has an odds ratio of 4.6. Although when NSAP was solely taken into consideration, the prevalence of celiac disease exhibited profound significance with a rate of 10.5%. 

Of the test subjects that maintained the gluten-free diet for the recommended time period of 12 -18 months, all of them exhibited an improvement of their symptoms, and their antibody profiles were negative. 

From this study, researchers concluded that targeting patients with NSAP or those that exhibit  other high risk celiac symptoms, will likely improve  the diagnostic yield of celiac disease, specifically among those exhibiting  typical celiac symptoms. Additionally, the ideal situation would be if more doctors were to recognize NSAP symptoms as  having the potential to be connected with celiac disease and screen for celiac accordingly; as delayed or undiagnosed celiac disease can eventually lead to a myriad of other long-term and permanent health issues including, osteoporosis, infertility, and an increased risk of cancer.

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Hello I was diagnosed Dec 15 of last year and went totally gluten-free the next day. I actually got worse before I got better - it's a steep learning curve - but now, 4 1/2 months later I'm finally seeing improvement. Hang in there.

Called my GI doctor today to make sure he is going to look at my small intestine and do biopsy for Celiac for my EGD and he is. Thanks for the tip everyone about have to start eating gluten again. The office told me to break my gluten free diet and start eating gluten everyday until my EGD. Here's to being miserable again for a few weeks ???

I can completely relate! The horrible mental effects that I have been living with for years is the absolute worst side effect of eating gluten, HANDS DOWN. Worse than the endless tummy aches, worse than the constant diarrhea, worse than the week long migraines, worse than the daily fatigue and body pain.... I honestly though there was something seriously wrong with me and hated my life because of how I felt mentally. I always felt like I was drowning, not in control of my thoughts, trapped in some unexplained misery. My head was always so cloudy, and I was mad because I always felt so slow and stupid. I would feel so lethargic and sad and empty while at the same time be raging inside, wanting to rip out of my own skin. I was mean, terrible, would snap at the people closest to me for no good reason and just felt like I hated everyone and everything. Think of how crappy you feel when you have a terrible cold and flu - I felt that crappy, but mentally. Some days were really bad, some were mild. I always thought it was because I was getting a migraine, or because I had a migraine, or because I had just overcome a migraine, because I didn't sleep well, because....always a random reason to justify why we have all these weird unrelated symptoms before we get diagnosed. I'm happy to say that I have been gluten-free for about 2 months now and though I am not symptom free, the first thing that improved was my mood. I no longer feel foggy and miserable. For the first time in years, my head is clear, I can actually think, and I feel positive and like I am in control of what's going on in my head. I don't hate the world. I don't spend every day bawled up on the corner of the couch depressed and angry. The release of these horrible symptoms is enough to never make me want to cheat, no matter what I have to miss out on. So insane how a little minuscule amount of a stupid protein can wreck such havoc.

I wanted to collect some of the info on NCGI in one place so that visitors who test negative but may still have an issue with gluten can be directed there. I'll add to this post as I find new links, but feel free to add or contribute anything you think may be of use! Matt --- Useful links: An overview from Alessio Fasano, one of the world's leading researchers on celiac and gluten sensitivity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvfTV57iPUY Umberto Volta, another leading researcher in the field gives some of the latest findings about NCGI: Presentation slides from Dr Volta's visit to Coeliac UK - NCGS about halfway through A scholarly overview from celiac disease magazine: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Knut_Lundin/publication/232528784_Non-celiac_Gluten_Sensitivity/links/09e415098bbe37c05b000000.pdf A good overview from a sceptical but fair perspective: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/a-balanced-look-at-gluten-sensitivity/ Another overview: https://celiac.org/celiac-disease/understanding-celiac-disease-2/non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity-2/ University of Chicago's excellent celiac site's take: http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/category/faq-non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity/ A compelling account in the British Medical Journal from an NCGI patient: http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e7982 Here's some positive news about a potential new test: http://www.medicaldaily.com/non-celiac-gluten-insensitivity-blood-test-392850 NCGI in children: NCGI and auto immune study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26026392 Also consider: Fodmaps: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/lsm/research/divisions/dns/projects/fodmaps/faq.aspx This Monash study: http://fodmapmonash.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/the-truth-behind-non-celiac-gluten.html suggested some who think they're reacting to gluten should actually be reducing fodmaps Sibo: http://www.webmd.boots.com/digestive-disorders/small-intestinal-bacteria-sibo

I was just diagnosed in March and I totally feel you. I'm having a hard enough time with determining which lip glosses are safe, let alone all my face products etc. I feel like this 'grey area' is the biggest annoyance with Celiac. So many foods/cosmetics I thought were safe after reading the ingredient list are actually not safe at all! One website says it's safe, one says its not. All these unfamiliar ingredients and even after googling term after term still so many grey areas!! I'm sure in time it gets easier and second nature and you learn by trial and error but holy this constant uncertainty is super annoying haha.