Atlantic Gastroenterology Associates Opens Celiac Diagnostic Center

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, NJ - The region's first Celiac Diagnostic Center, designed to provide advanced diagnostic approaches for patients with digestive symptoms that might suggest celiac disease has opened at Atlantic Gastroenterology Associates (AGA).

One of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, celiac is currently also one of the most under diagnosed. It's a condition that affects at least 3 million Americans, or about one in 110 people. Yet only one in about 4,700 to 5,000 is diagnosed.

A slice of wheat bread might be a healthy snack for most people. But for those with celiac disease, it's a toxic substance. That's because bread contains gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley that stimulates damage in the gastrointestinal tract if you have celiac disease.

"Many people don't realize that their stomach aches, diarrhea or bloating can indicate celiac disease," said Celiac Diagnostic Center director and AGA founder Barry Kaufman, M.D., F.A.C.G., C.N.S.P. "It's important to raise awareness about celiac disease. Diagnosis is obviously the key to reducing symptoms and preventing complications from the disease."

"Gluten actually injures the villi, the tiny hair-like projections in the small intestine that promote digestion and then absorb nutrients from food," Kaufman said. "In the long term, this damage leads to chronic and possibly life threatening conditions including anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, some neurologic conditions and associated cancers."

The new Celiac Diagnostic Center at AGA includes an onsite pathology lab for special processing of tissues to detect inflammation associated with celiac disease.

While there is no cure for celiac disease, it can be managed and controlled through lifestyle changes. A lifelong gluten-free diet is the standard treatment. In addition to avoiding wheat, rye and barley, celiac patients should be on the watch for processed foods that may contain hidden gluten. These include ketchup, candy bars, canned soup and ice cream.

Are you at risk?

The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown. However, there are certain risk factors that may increase chances of contracting the disease. These include:

  • Being of northern European ancestry
  • Being female
  • First degree relative with celiac disease
  • Type I diabetes
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Microscopic colitis

Severe stress from childbirth to physical injury or surgery also may activate celiac disease.

Watch for these warning signs

Some people with celiac disease are asymptomatic, or have no symptoms. The most common symptoms associated with celiac disease include:

  • Bloated belly
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Children also may be slow to grow

If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor.

The Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) southern New Jersey Chapter #9 support group meets monthly at Virtua/West Jersey Hospital in Voorhees. They also offer a children's group. Many local restaurants offer gluten-free menu items.

If anyone is interested in participating in a local support group call The Celiac Diagnostic Center at 609.407.1220 ext. 1125.

About Atlantic Gastroenterology Associates
Atlantic Gastroenterology Associates is the largest and most sophisticated gastrointestinal treatment center in the southern New Jersey region. Established in 1978, AGA is a leader in the field of digestive disease diagnosis and treatment.

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Sherry Hoffman