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June 10, 2013 06:18 PM

Increase In Celiac Disease

Sioux Falls, SD

Wheat, rye and barley are being cut out of more people's diets. That's because doctors are diagnosing an increasing number of Americans with Celiac Disease.

In fact, Melanie Mundt, the wife of KELOLAND Meteorologist Scot Mundt, was recently diagnosed.

Melanie Mundt is no stranger to the doctor's office or the upper endoscopy procedure. She was diagnosed with Celiac Disease last summer.

"[It was] a little bit of a surprise and shock. I know people who have been through it and I knew it was going to end up being a life-long change" Mundt said.

Mundt is now undergoing a second endoscopy to see whether the condition of her small intestine has improved since she changed her diet.

People with Celiac Disease have an abnormal immune response to gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley.

"You have to change your lifestyle and how you cook and how you grocery shop. When I first started grocery shopping, it would take me two hours to get through the grocery store to buy certain things," Mundt said.

"Most patients will respond very well to the treatment, which is restricting the gluten from their diet,” Sanford Gastroenterologist Dr. Khalouck Abdrabbo said.

But there is no cure for Celiac Disease and as many as one out of every 130 Americans has the disorder.

"As a gastroenterologist, it's not unusual for me to see a patient or two a week with the disease," Abdrabbo said.

Researchers believe one reason behind the increase in Celiac Disease could be the increase in processed foods in many people's diets. Abdrabbo also says more awareness of the disease may be behind the boost in patient numbers.

"Patients and physicians are more alert and the patients are more alert to Celiac Disease," Abdrabbo said.

Testing for the disease has also gotten easier with the upper endoscopy.

"We give the patient medication to get them relaxed. It's painless," Abdrabbo said.

Doctors then insert a scope into the patient's mouth and into the small intestine.

"We'll take a biopsy to evaluate for Celiac Disease," Abdrabbo said.

No matter what the results are of her test, Mundt says she'll stay positive.

"Rather than thinking of it as a diet of limiting your food, it's better to just think of it as a new lifestyle - a new way of living and eating and moving on from there," Mundt said.

Celiac Disease can run in families. In fact, after Mundt was diagnosed, her mom also was tested, and she too was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.

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