Local woman tells of struggle with Celiac disease - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Local woman tells of struggle with Celiac disease


May is Celiac Disease Awareness month.  The digestive disease is becoming more prevalent, now affecting nearly one in every 100 Americans, or about three million people. 

Some studies suggest patients go an average of six to ten years before getting the right diagnosis, since celiac can mimic several other conditions.   The good news is once diagnosed, one dietary change can eliminate celiac's symptoms.  But making that adjustment is anything but easy.

Amber Evans is a busy mom of two.  A few years ago, she suffered a seizure..a year later, shingles, and her health just kept getting worse.

"I just started getting violently sick.  Anything I ate I was just so completely sick.  I felt like I was being stabbed to death," Evans said.

Like many patients, Evans had lots of doctor visits and tests, not knowing what was wrong.

"Symptoms can be very non-specific:  bloating, abdominal pain, a change in bowel pattern.  And these people may be labeled with what we call irritable bowel syndrome," said Dr. Carline Quander, Covenant Clinic Gastroenterologist.

For Evans, and many patients, a blood test or endoscopy can determine those symptoms are actually celiac disease.  Essentially, it's a food allergy to gluten, a product found in lots of the foods we eat everyday. Evans says adapting to a gluten-free diet has been very tough.

"I emptied out my whole entire cupboards.  Everything had to go.  And my kids have had a hard time with that, but they're adjusting," said Evans.

Eating at restaurants can prove almost impossible.  At the store, she reads every label.  She hopes sharing her story will bring awareness to this life-alternating disease..

"I want people to understand that it's more than just we're being picky or more than just a health fad.  It's an actual disease and you live with it for life," Evans said.

While it's tough to stick to a gluten-free diet, making that change can help nearly all patients eliminate symptoms within just a week or two.

Evans hopes local restaurants will step up their efforts to help, offering more gluten free options on their menus.

Research has shown that rates of celiac disease have more than doubled every 15 years since 1974.  Doctors say part of the reason may be because they're now testing for it more often.

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