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May 16, 2014

May 16, 2014

For more information,
Contact: Natalie Lester
Moxley Carmichael
(865) 544-0088


Gastrointestinal Associates offers vital information for Celiac Awareness Month

The physicians at Gastrointestinal Associates are marking Celiac Awareness Month by taking the opportunity to remind patients that self-diagnosis of celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive disease, is not only ill-advised but can also be dangerous.

“Celiac disease and its prescribed gluten-free diet are currently garnering a lot of attention in the media and in public discourse,” said Dr. Meade Edmunds, a physician with Gastrointestinal Associates. “It is important for people to know that proper diagnosis of celiac disease requires a panel blood test and an endoscopic biopsy of the small intestine; going gluten-free prior to being tested can obscure test results.”

Gluten is a protein primarily found in wheat, rye and barley; it can also be found in some condiments, makeup, lipstick, medications and perfumes. For most people, consuming gluten causes no problems. When individuals with celiac disease eat gluten, their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. A 100 percent gluten-free diet is the only existing treatment for celiac disease.

Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose, and people can suffer symptoms for years before getting a proper diagnosis.

“I always say that celiac disease is the great masquerader because it presents itself in so many different ways,” Edmunds said. “The autoimmune digestive disease causes malabsorption of fat soluble vitamins, so a person suffering from celiac disease may suffer from problems not typically associated with a digestive disorder, such as skin lesions, anemia, brittle bones or problems with their eyesight.”

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, currently 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed and at risk of developing long-term complications. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to health problems that include infertility, reduced bone density, neurological disorders, some cancers and other autoimmune diseases, such as Type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

“Gastrointestinal Associates is committed to increasing awareness about this underdiagnosed and potentially very dangerous disease,” said Dr. Bergein F. Overholt, co-founder and managing partner of GIA. “My colleagues and I hope that with increased awareness more people will seek treatment, get a proper diagnosis and get on track to a healthier life.”

About Gastrointestinal Associates:

Gastrointestinal Associates is one of the Southeast’s leading GI practices and is the only GI practice in Knoxville that operates three licensed and certified endoscopic ambulatory surgery centers in the north, central and west areas of Knoxville and Knox County. For more information, visit