- What is Celiac Disease?
- What is Gluten?
- Gluten-Free Alternatives
- Final Thoughts
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune and chronic digestive disorder that damages your small intestine. It is triggered by eating foods that contain gluten. If the gluten intake isn’t monitored, then it can lead to many long-lasting digestive problems. It is estimated that about 2 million people in the United States alone suffer from celiac disease, but many people are not diagnosed correctly.
When gluten is consumed by people who have celiac disease, their body releases an immune response that attacks the small intestine. When this happens, it attacks the villi, which are tiny hair-like projections that line the inside of the small intestine. When the villi are damaged, then the body cannot absorb nutrients properly. This can also lead to other autoimmune diseases developing.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is found in many grains. Gluten helps food maintain its shape, acting as a sort of glue. They can be found in the big three: wheat, barley, and rye. These three contain many subcategories of food, such as bread, baked goods, soups, pasta, beer, and even cereals. Because of the use of gluten in many of these food categories, many food suppliers have come out with many gluten-free alternatives that you can switch to.
Symptoms can vary for everyone depending on their body, but it seems to affect the digestive system the most. These are some of the most common symptoms:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Lactose intolerance
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pain in the abdomen area
While symptoms could differ, there is a big difference in symptoms between children and adults. Adults most commonly have the symptoms above. For children the symptoms include:
- Delayed puberty
- Slowed growth and height
- Weight loss
- Damage to tooth enamel
- Mood swings
Celiac disease can be diagnosed usually through blood tests and biopsies of the small intestine. Symptoms alone can’t be used for diagnosis because other digestive problems have similar symptoms such as a wheat allergy or irritable bowel symptoms. If a patient is thought to have celiac disease, doctors will usually take a blood test so they can check the level of antibodies in the patient’s blood. These blood tests can also detect diseases related to celiac disease, such as anemia. However, the only way to confirm a celiac disease diagnosis is by getting an intestinal biopsy. This is done when a patient is sedated and the doctor can get a clear view of the patient’s small intestines through a camera or tube that is inserted through the mouth and travels to the small intestine (an upper endoscopy). From there, they can take a sample of tissue to test for celiac disease.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for celiac disease. However, some treatments can help, especially following a gluten-free diet. This can help improve a patient’s symptoms and heal damage that may have occurred in the small intestine. Many people with celiac disease are also referred to dieticians to help them avoid gluten and teach them how to read the food labels to avoid gluten, meal planning, along with suggestion for food they should eat or void.
Gluten can seem hard to avoid, however, there are many healthy foods that you can have while still maintaining a gluten-free diet. There are many gluten-free food groups, this includes:
- Meat and poultry
- Fish and seafood
- Beans, legumes, and nuts
Grains can be a little tougher, but because of the increased knowledge about gluten-free diets, many stores are now offering gluten-free alternatives. For example, there are many cereals that contain gluten, a variety of gluten-free cereal options are available as well. Many processed foods can also contain gluten, but to avoid that make sure that you read the labels to be sure.
Have you ever heard of celiac disease? Do you know anyone who does and how it has affected them? Share your stories with us down below!