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Chronic heartburn is one of the many symptoms of celiac disease

Posted Feb 10 2009 11:30am

February 10, 2009 Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

I had acid-reflux surgery because stomach acid was irritating my throat. After the surgery, the correct diagnosis of celiac disease was finally made. Eating wheat caused the acid in my throat. People often write you about chronic heartburn. They should be told that surgery and drugs aren’t always the answers. If I’d gotten the celiac-disease diagnosis sooner, I might have been spared an unnecessary operation. Celiac disease is an inability to tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The immune reaction to this protein begins to destroy the gut and can cause a wide range of symptoms, from heartburn and migraines to fatigue and osteoporosis. Celiac disease was once thought to be rare, but more recent research shows that it is far more common, perhaps one in 100 people (Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, November 2005).

It runs in families, so relatives of patients should be tested. There are no medications to treat celiac disease, but it can be controlled with a gluten-free diet. My husband takes Actos, metformin and glyburide for type 2 diabetes, Lipitor for cholesterol and Diovan HCT for high blood pressure. He can’t get up the stairs without me behind him, pushing. He can’t stand up to work on anything for more than half an hour. When he stands still, he gets dizzy and teeters. As a result, he drags a chair around or uses a walker to go anywhere. He has bad cramps in his lower legs. The doctor prescribed vitamin B-12 because my husband is low in this vitamin. Could any of his drugs be causing the vitamin B-12 problem?

Metformin is useful for treating type 2 diabetes but can lead to vitamin B-12 deficiency. Lack of this vitamin can cause fatigue, peripheral neuropathy (numbness or tingling of hands and feet), trouble walking and confusion. Lipitor may lead to leg cramps and weakness, while the diuretic HCT in Diovan HCT may interfere with good blood sugar control. Given your husband’s symptoms, his doctor may need to evaluate his treatment regimen. After reading all the complaints about Ambien, I would like to put in a good word for this sleeping pill. I’ve had trouble sleeping all my life. When I finally fell asleep, I had a hard time waking up. A year ago, my doctor prescribed Ambien. I only need half a pill to give me solid sleep. I wake up easily, feeling refreshed. Like you, many do get a good night’s sleep on Ambien (zolpidem). Others have reported sleepwalking or sleep-driving, which can be dangerous. Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers in their column. E-mail them via their Web site:

Posted in Celiac, News Commentary   Tagged: Celiac, Heartburn   
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