Celiac Disease is a Gastrointestinal disorder causing harm to the small intestine. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, Celiac Disease affects more than 2 million people in the US. In this disease, when gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) is ingested, the immune system attacks the small intestine. Villi, which line the small intestine normally aid in absorbing nutrients from food through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. However, in Celiac Disease, villi become damaged leading to a loss of absorption of nutrients (malabsorption).
In children, symptoms as a result of Celiac Disease include: abdominal pain, cramping, severe diarrhea, weight loss, irritability, and delayed growth. In adults, symptoms include: sores or ulcers inside the mouth, weight loss, chronic diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, joint pain, depression, tingling with numbness in the hands and feet (also known as neuropathy), missed menstrual cycles in women, infertility, and blistery, rash eruptions known as Dermatitis herpetiformis. Some people will not display Gastrointestinal symptoms of Celiac Disease, but will develop problems caused by nutrient deficiency such as: Iron Anemia, Osteoporosis, and Liver Disease.
Risk factors for increased chances in developing Celiac Disease include: heredity, and having any of the following Diseases: Type I. Diabetes, Down Syndrome, an Autoimmune Thyroid Disease, or Colitis. Diagnosis of Celiac Disease includes: endoscopy with biopsy of small intestinal wall and labs (which show elevated Antibodies for tTGA or EMA.) In some cases, steroids are prescribed to calm the Intestinal inflammation. The best way to treat Celiac Disease is to avoid ingestion of gluten products. This is the main way to make the Disease go into Remission and for the small intestine to heal. Once the small intestine heals, villi will repair themselves causing nutrients to be absorbed normally. This will lead to a loss of symptoms.
Rarely, people may develop Refractory Celiac Disease where the small intestine does not repair itself even through the avoidance of gluten. In these cases, nutrients may have to be administered intravenously. Complications can arise if nutrients are depleted, including low Iron and Vitamin D levels, thinning of the bones and painful joints, and being prone to bone fractures. Untreated Celiac Disease, can also lead to Intestinal Cancer.
Elimination of gluten foods is crucial to cope with Celiac Disease. Often consulting a Dietician can be helpful in addressing nutritional needs for people suffering with Celiac Disease. Some foods that normally contain gluten are: pasta, flour, Bulgar, cereals, and cracked wheat. A few foods that do not contain gluten include: white rice, corn, potatoes, fruits, and nuts. More and more grocery stores and restaurants are carrying gluten-free foods, making it easier for people with Celiac Disease to cope and lead a healthier life through diet modification.