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gluten celiac faq

FAQ: Your Gluten and Celiac Disease Questions Answered!

When it comes to gluten and celiac disease, many people have more questions than answers. Between fad diets, online supplements, and health claims that run the gamut from too-good-to-be-true to downright scary… how’s a person to know what to believe?

In an effort to better serve you, our patients, the gastroenterologists at Nashville’s St. Thomas Medical Group have put together this FAQ list covering the basics of celiac disease and gluten.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat and many grains, including rye and barley. Gluten is what gives dough its sticky texture. While most common in wheat, rye and barley, gluten is also present in many foods that you wouldn’t expect due to food processing techniques. Even whole (non-gluten) foods, such as oats, may contain enough gluten to trigger symptoms. This can occur from contact in growing fields or processing plants.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease and genetic disorder that is triggered by gluten. In patients with celiac disease, the ingestion of gluten triggers an autoimmune response in the body’s digestive system, resulting in the destruction of villi, tiny finger-like projections within the small intestine. Villi increase surface area inside the small intestine, making it easier for the body to properly absorb food. Fortunately, the interior lining of the small intestine renews itself every few days, so the damage caused by celiac disease is not permanent.

Remember, it’s important to recognize celiac disease for what it is: an autoimmune disease. Celiac disease isn’t a food allergy or dietary choice.

How common is celiac disease?

The Center for Celiac Research and Treatment reports that one out of every 133 people in the United States are affected by celiac disease.

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

Symptoms of celiac disease may include constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, and more. Altogether, there are approximately 300 known symptoms of celiac disease. Many symptoms are “extra-intestinal,” which is to say they occur in body systems beyond the digestive system. Some patients may experience arthritis, joint pain, dementia, and other symptoms. That being said… some individuals with celiac disease experience no symptoms at all.

How is celiac disease diagnosed?

The initial screening for celiac disease can be done with a simple blood test, which detects specific antibodies. If the blood test indicates the possibility of celiac disease, then your gastrointestinal specialist may order an intestinal biopsy. Biopsy is the only way to make an official diagnosis.

How is celiac disease treated?

While there is no cure for celiac disease, the goods news is that affected individuals can lead normal, healthy lives by following a gluten-free diet.

What can I eat if I have celiac disease? What foods should I avoid?

Individuals with celiac disease can eat any foods that do not contain gluten. Avoid any foods that contain wheat or wheat-derived flour. This includes bread, pasta, and cereals, as well as foods you might not expect to contain gluten: canned soup, ketchup and mustard, processed meats, ice cream, and yogurt. (Due to increased awareness of celiac disease, gluten-free options are now available for nearly every food.)

Is celiac disease a major health concern? Is it dangerous?

Yes, biopsy-diagnosed celiac disease is a major health concern. Left untreated, the effects can be life-threatening. Untreated celiac disease may increase risk for cancer, osteoporosis, pancreatic disease, malabsorption, hemorrhaging, and other serious health issues.

If you have celiac disease, talk to your doctor or gastrointestinal specialist about following a proper gluten-free diet.

Schedule An Appointment With a GI Specialist

For more information, visit the St. Thomas Medical Group Endoscopy Center (phone +1 (615) 301-7040) or Nashville Gastrointestinal Specialists (phone +1 (615) 383-0165).

concussion-nashville

Concussion 101: Know the Signs & What to Do

As summer winds down and the school year starts up, so does the sports season. In fact, approximately three out of four US households with school-aged children have at least one child involved in organized sports, according to the Aspen Institute.

Playing youth sports offers a number of benefits. Children develop strength, coordination, confidence and social skills, all while learning important lessons about work ethic and being part of a team. But with those benefits comes risk… specifically, risk of concussion.

According to Brain Injury Research Institute, an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year. During one four-year period, the Institute reported that six percent of all sports-related Emergency Department visits by children ages 5 to 18 involved concussion.

What Is Concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that may occur when the head or body sustains an impact, causing the brain to move quickly in the skull. This quick and sudden shift can cause damage to brain cells and result in chemical imbalances.

The Signs of Concussion

Concussions may not always present obvious symptoms. It’s somewhat common for kids and teens who have experienced a concussion to say they just “don’t feel right.” Parents may notice their child:

  • Is forgetful or confused about what’s going on in the game.
  • Is slow to answer questions.
  • Moves clumsily.
  • Appears to be stunned.
  • Exhibits changes in personality, mood, or behavior.
  • Has trouble recalling events that occurred before the impact.

Of course, if your child loses consciousness – even briefly – then removal from play and concussion evaluation is strongly recommended.

Self-Reported Concussion Signs & Symptoms

We’ve discussed a few signs and symptoms that parents can observe. However, it’s also critical that your child knows the symptoms of concussion, so that they can be “on guard” and perhaps more likely to remove themselves from play should they experience a concussion and no one else notices. Self-reported symptoms include:

  • Headache or pressure in the head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance issues
  • Dizziness
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Troubled by noise or light
  • Feeling sluggish or in a haze
  • Feeling confused
  • Having trouble concentrating or remembering things
  • Feeling “down” or “off”

For more information, view a “Fact Sheet for Youth Sports Parents” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Heads Up offers many additional resources for parents, players, coaches, and providers.

What to Do In the Event of a Concussion?

If you believe your child may have sustained a concussion, remove them from play immediately. Your child should take the rest of the day off and be seen by a healthcare provider for evaluation. Only after receiving a return-to-play clearance from a provider should your child get back to practice or gameplay. Don’t try to determine the severity of the injury on your own. Instead, defer to a licensed provider, as symptoms may not appear until hours or days after the trauma. Concussion can be a serious brain injury; you don’t want to rush the recovery process!

Concussion Law In Tennessee

In April 2013, Tennessee joined 43 other states in passing a sports concussion law designed to protect youth athletes and increase awareness of the risk of concussion and traumatic brain injury. According to Tennessee state law:

  • Youth athletes and parents must sign a concussion form before competing.
  • Coaches are required to immediately remove an athlete who appears to have suffered a concussion from play and practice.
  • Youth athletes who have sustained a concussion must be cleared by a licensed healthcare provider before returning to play or practice.

Learn more about the Concussion Law in Tennessee, and download policies, forms, and other documents here.

See a Family Doctor in Nashville for Concussion Evaluation

Are you concerned that your child may have experienced a concussion? Do you need a post-concussion evaluation or return-to-play clearance? Schedule an appointment with your family doctor at St. Thomas Medical Group in Nashville online or by calling +1 (615) 301-7040.

Stress Management Techniques

6 Stress Management Techniques for Improving Health

To a certain degree, stress is a normal part of life. But all indicators suggest that stress has gotten out of hand for many adults and teens in the US.

The Global Organization for Stress reports:

  • Stress is a top health concern for US high schoolers.
  • Four in five adults feel stress on the job.
  • Three out of four adults report experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month.

At St. Thomas Medical Group, our physicians are committed to your total wellness, which includes understanding your stress triggers, family relationships and social issues so that we may provide a higher level of comprehensive care.

We encourage you to talk with your primary care providers about how you can reduce stress and improve your overall health with tactics like these…

#1 Exercise When You’re Feeling Stressed

Exercise releases endorphins, which boost mood, reduce perceptions of pain, and improve your outlook. Even as little as a half-hour of walking or jogging can have a significant impact on your mental and emotional health.

#2 Cut Out the Triggers

Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can worsen stress. Try replacing caffeine and alcohol with non-caffeinated teas, natural fruit juices, water and healthy beverages.

#3 Create a Bedtime Routine

Stress often makes it difficult to fall asleep and get a good night’s rest. Avoid screens and intense mental activity in the hours leading up to bedtime. Also, set a regular bedtime and try to stick to the new routine. Caffeine should be avoided in the evening, and alcohol consumption kept to a minimum.

#4 Talk to a Friend

Sometimes just talking to a friend about the factors stressing you can make you feel better. You might find that talking about your problems out loud brings some perspective. You may find solutions and realize that some problems aren’t as bad as you initially thought. At the very least, it’s often comforting just to be heard and seen by others.

#5 Be Realistic About Your Time

If you try to cram everything into your day and find yourself stressed when you run out of time, then you might be able to de-stress by re-evaluating your expectations! Create a schedule that more accurately reflects what you’re capable of completing. Check things off as you go through your day. And, remember, it’s okay to say no to things that aren’t on your schedule or to-do list!

#6 Make Time for Yourself

Having hobbies and time for relaxing is an important part of a healthy, well-rounded life. Find activities that you enjoy in order to reduce stress!

Need a local primary care provider who will listen to you and advocate for your health and well-being? Find a primary care doctor in Nashville at St. Thomas Medical Group. Call +1 (615) 297-2700 or schedule online.