The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia announces the establishment of the Center for Celiac Disease, a multidisciplinary resource created to diagnose, treat and provide support for patients and families with celiac disease.
"A person with celiac disease is unable to digest gluten, a common ingredient found in many foods including bread, pasta and even condiments," said Ritu Verma, M.D., gastroenterologist and director of the Center for Celiac Disease at Children's Hospital. "This inability to digest gluten damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents the body from absorbing essential nutrients. The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet."
One of the challenges of celiac disease is that though it is relatively common, affecting approximately one in 133 people, the warning signs like small stature, fatigue and stomach irritation are relatively vague and may mimic other disorders like inflammatory bowel disease or lactose intolerance, making it difficult to diagnose. In some cases symptoms may be so mild that they are overlooked entirely. If celiac disease is not diagnosed, patients may face problems with osteoporosis, internal organ disorders and internal bleeding.
"The average patient lives with celiac disease for 11 years before being properly diagnosed," said Dr. Verma. "The goal of the Center for Celiac Disease at Children's Hospital is for families to get the answers they need and receive a comprehensive treatment plan and support that will last a lifetime."
The Center for Celiac Disease consists of a comprehensive team of specialists including physicians, nutritionists, nurses, educators, laboratory technicians and clinical researchers, who provide individualized nutrition counseling and care for each patient.
"Celiac disease not only affects the child diagnosed with the disease, but also the entire family because treatment requires a drastic change in lifestyle and diet," said Jennifer Autodore, R.D., LDN, clinical nutritionist at Children's Hospital. "That is why at Children's Hospital's Center for Celiac Disease we offer care from highly trained specialists, in addition to family education sessions and support groups where information about the latest gluten-free restaurants and recipes is shared. The Center also provides comprehensive family screenings and support and direction to advocate for gluten-free menu items in the children's schools."