What is CELIAC DISEASE?
Celiac Disease is a condition affecting the small intestine and preventing it from absorbing nutrients from consumed foods. It is mainly characterized by intolerance to gluten.
Causes of Celiac Disease
When a person who has Celiac Disease consumes foods containing gluten – a type of protein mainly found in wheat products – an adverse reaction takes place that causes the destruction of the inner lining of the small intestine, i.e. the villi which are vital in the absorption process. As a result the small intestine becomes inflamed and nutrients from food cannot be absorbed properly. Celiac Disease, research has revealed, can be genetic or inherited.
Diagnosis of Celiac Disease
Since many of the symptoms of Gluten Enteropathy are similar to those of other digestive diseases, the most dependable way of testing for the disease is by conducting a small intestinal biopsy.
Medications for Celiac Disease
There are no medications to cure Gluten Intolerance. However, vitamin and nutrient supplements are very important to ensure that the individual is receiving a balanced diet. These include supplements of Calcium, Vitamin B, D and K, Folate and Iron.
In cases where Gluten Enteropathy causes severe inflammation of the intestine a doctor may recommend steroids to control the inflammation.
Risk factors of Celiac Disease
First degree relatives – parents, siblings, children – of individuals are more at risk of inheriting the disease. Individuals who have other genetic disorders, such as Down Syndrome and Turner Syndrome are also more likely to also have Gluten Enteropathy.
Some of the other diseases that people with Gluten Intolerance tend to have are:
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
- Autoimmune liver diseases
- Addison’s Disease, where the glands that produce vital hormones are damaged
- Sjogren’s Syndrome, where the glands producing saliva and tears are damaged
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
In children Gluten Intolerance, another name for this disease, may be displayed by chronic diarrhea or constipation, bloating of and pain in the abdomen, vomiting and weight loss. In adults, symptoms of Gluten Enteropathy, by which it is also known, are fatigue and anemia, osteoporosis, arthritis, bone or joint pain, a tingling numbness in the hands or feet and sores inside the mouth. In females missed menstrual periods and miscarriages or infertility could also be a symptom of Gluten Enteropathy.
Treatment for Celiac Disease
There is no cure for Gluten Intolerance. Following a gluten free diet is the only treatment, which will reduce inflammation in the small intestine. Individuals with Gluten Enteropathy have to pay special attention to the ingredients contained in the foods they eat. The main foods to avoid include:
- All foods make from any type of wheat, rye, oats and barley, including bread, cookies, pasta, crackers and oats porridge.
- Processed foods that contain gluten such as canned soups, luncheon meats, ice creams and candy bars and bottled condiments such as ketchup, mustard and salad dressings.
Following a gluten free diet can show improvement in the Gluten Intolerance condition even within 48 hours. But several people discard the diet after showing some tolerance to gluten. This can harm them later in life. Following a strict gluten free diet is the only real solution to Celiac Disease.
Types of Celiac Disease
The 2 main forms of Celiac Disease, other than the normal type which displays gluten intolerance due are Latent Celiac Disease and Silent Celiac Disease. In the former case, the individuals show via blood tests that they have the disease, but they don’t display any signs of it. This usually happens if the disease is detected during childhood, and the individual follows a gluten free diet, after which they show no signs of the disease. In some cases the individuals abandon following a gluten free diet once they reach adulthood and still show no signs of the disease.
In the case of Silent Celiac Disease, the individual’s blood tests show that they have the disease and they also display loss of villi in the small intestine, yet they show no intolerance to a gluten diet. In both cases individuals may show signs of the disease later in life. A rare condition known as Refractory Celiac Disease occurs when the individual shows no improvement even after following a strict gluten free diet for several years.