Q. I’m 36 years old and a T3 complete para. A nondisabled friend of mine had been having pain and cramping in his stomach along with occasional bouts of diarrhea for the past three years. After a battery of tests, he found out he has celiac disease, and now he has to adhere to a strict diet with no wheat, barley or rye products to avoid damage to his small intestine. How common is celiac disease, and since I have no sensation in my stomach, how would I know if I had it?
A. Dave, your question is a timely one. Many celiac disease symptoms are similar to living with chronic spinal cord injury. I know, because at 53, I’m in my 28th year as a T10 complete para and was recently diagnosed with celiac disease.
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack the small intestine if a person eats even a minute amount of gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley and rye — which causes inflammation and damage to the small intestine. Failure to diagnose celiac disease — or continuing to consume foods with gluten if you have the disease — will cause damage to the small intestine and lead to malnutr