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Gluten is a common thing found in many foods and some people are allergic to this food. When the immune system of the body overreacts to the gluten in food items, it leads to a condition called Celiac disease. Most often, the immune system overreacts to foods like wheat and barley. This can affect the ability of the small intestine to absorb vitamins and minerals and lead to various health complications. While the symptoms are obvious in most cases, it can also be hidden in some people. There is no treatment available for this condition and staying away from gluten food forever is the most suitable remedy.
Types of Celiac Disease
- Classic Celiac Disease: The most common symptoms of this condition are diarrhoea, lack of absorption, steatorrhea, bloating of the abdominal area and loss of weight. It generally affects adults and even children can also get affected in some cases. In children, the bones tend to get weaker and they do not have much energy due to this reason. Also, the appetite will get affected leading to weight loss.
- Atypical Celiac Disease: In this condition, people do not experience the regular symptoms and they usually experience mild discomfort with digestion and lack of energy. This is due to iron deficiency and also leads to a chronic fatigue condition. Some people also experience tingling of the feet and hands or numbness in the region. In severe cases, it can also lead to infertility and depression.
- Asymptomatic Celiac Disease: This is also called silent celiac disease as there are no regular symptoms of the disease. On the other hand, they experience other issues like joint pain and loss of bone density. In some cases, there can be excess fluids in the tissues leading to Edema.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
The symptoms vary slightly for children and adult patients.
General symptoms for children
- Diarrhoea: If you notice this condition frequently, it is time to approach your doctor as it can be the clear symptom of celiac disease. It happens due to the lack of digestion ability in the body.
- Constipation: While some children tend to develop diarrhoea, some others have constipation problems due to the same condition. The food does not get processed properly in the intestine and it leads to constipation in the long run.
- Bloating of the stomach region: This is a common condition and many children have such symptoms. They tend to get full even after eating a small meal and this reduces the food intake by a huge margin in some cases. All these conditions can later lead to weight loss.
- Loss of weight: This is a clear sign of Celiac disease and you should immediately approach your doctor. After careful examination, they will determine the cause and provide proper suggestions to handle the situation. When children are suffering from this condition, the body does not digest food properly and it reduces the intake of food due to bloating of the stomach. In the long run, this leads to weight loss and general anaemia.
General symptoms for adults
- Pain in the abdominal region: This is usually the result of gas formation in the body and bloating of the stomach. It can cause a lot of pain regularly and you should never neglect this symptom.
- Anaemia: When you are suffering from Celiac disease, the ability of the body to absorb minerals and vitamins reduces drastically and this leads to general anaemia. The blood cells will not be able to carry enough oxygen due to lack of iron. The blood flow to the vital organs gets reduced leading to restlessness and general weakness.
- Rashes: This symptom is usually a result of general weakness and having celiac disease adds to this problem.
- Migraine: When the blood is not able to carry enough oxygen to the brain, it leads to migraine and you should take iron supplements to counter the situation.
- Mouth Ulcers and heartburn: Many people face such problems due to the lack of essential vitamins and minerals in the body. The small intestine loses its ability to completely absorb nutrients and this leads to such problems.
- Loss of weight: As the stomach gets bloated even after eating small quantities of food due to the formation of gas in the body, it gives a fuller feeling and people generally tend to eat less in this situation. Along with that, the lack of nutrients can lead to weight loss for many people.
Causes of Celiac Disease
- The exact cause for Celiac Disease is not known and it is usually due to a combination of different factors.
- When you eat gluten foods, your body does not take it easily and it tends to react by giving some symptoms.
- Even general infections of the gastrointestinal tract can lead to this condition.
- Due to the overreaction of the body to gluten, the small intestine gets damaged and loses its ability to absorb minerals and vitamins from the food. The villi in the small intestine usually get affected after eating gluten food and this weakens the small intestine.
- You will be surprised to know that Celiac disease is very common and it affects about 1 person in every hundred in most western countries.
- It is more common among people suffering from type 1 diabetes and who have autoimmune thyroid disease.
Diagnosis of Celiac Disease
- Begin with a gluten diet for detection: Many people have a general understanding about the Celiac disease and generally stay away from gluten foods to avoid such problems. If you are on a gluten-free diet, you need to get off the routine for some time during the diagnosis phase. Your doctor will introduce slight amounts of gluten to your diet to monitor the reaction of the body and this will be the first method used by them to test for Celiac disease. However, this should be clearly avoided during pregnancy as it can lead to other complications.
- Blood Test: the most common method used is the Serology test that detects the antibodies in the blood. When there is a drastic increase in the level, it indicates some adverse reaction to gluten food.
- HLA Genetic Test: This is usually done after the blood test and it tests for human leukocyte antigens in the body.
- Endoscopy: Finally, few people may be advised to undergo endoscopy to determine the overall condition of the intestine. The biopsy is conducted carefully to assess the villi damage and this determines the stage of the disease.
Prevention of Celiac Disease
Unfortunately, there is no way in which you can prevent this disease. However, when you have this disease, you can take care of and prevent the symptoms by indulging in a gluten-free diet. It is a good idea to eat more fruits and vegetables along with seafood and meat. It is also important to note that Rice is gluten-free and you can freely include it in your everyday diet.
Treatment for Celiac Disease
- Eating a gluten-free diet: This is probably the only thing you can do when it comes to treating Celiac disease. Remember that there is no foolproof treatment available for this condition and you should take care of your eating habits throughout your life. This needs lifelong care about your diet and always make sure that you read the labels for gluten content. It is very easy to manage a good nutritional gluten-free diet after consulting your doctor. They may even refer you to a dietician and you can follow the guidelines given by them and get some relief for your health problems.
- Nutritional supplements: It is important to get a regular dose of vitamins and minerals so that your body can function to the optimum level. Make sure that you include calcium and iron supplements along with Vitamins K, D and B12 as they enhance the overall functioning of your body and you can cope up with the symptoms in a better way. Your doctor will be the best person to prescribe the suitable vitamin supplement needed for your body after careful examination.
- The decrease in bone density: This happens due to lack of calcium in the body. With celiac disease limiting the efficiency of the intestine, it will not be able to absorb enough calcium through food source and the bones become weaker in the long run. This leads to osteoporosis in some cases due to a decrease in bone density.
- Lactose intolerance: In normal condition, the lactose is digested by the small intestine. When you are suffering from Celiac Disease, the intestine will not be able to digest the lactose and you become intolerant to lactose. This means that drinking milk and other substances containing lactose can affect your health condition.
- Malnutrition: As the ability of the small intestine to absorb vitamins and minerals from the food decreases, people tend to become nutrient deficient and this leads to malnutrition. In general, you will notice lack of calcium, iron, zinc and other essential vitamins in people suffering from this condition. This condition affects both children as well as adults.
- Infertility: This condition affects women more than men and they find it difficult to get pregnant. Even when they manage to get pregnant, the chances of miscarriage increases a lot with such condition. Not having enough nutrition can also increase the chances of getting a miscarriage when you are suffering from celiac disease.
- Cancer: In some cases, having celiac disease can lead to Lymphoma where the immunity is damaged very badly and cancer cells begin to thrive in the body. However, not every person suffering from Celiac disease will develop cancer and it happens only in a few cases.
Myths about Celiac Disease
Myth #1: Rice contains gluten:
This is completely false and you can include rice in your regular diet. This is a good alternative to other foods like wheat and barley and it is very safe for people suffering from Celiac Disease. Always read the food labels to know if it contains any gluten and you can easily avoid such foods in this manner.
Myth #2: Low amounts of gluten are alright:
If you are suffering from Celiac Disease, you should be very strict with your food habits and always avoid gluten at any cost. Remember that even low amounts of gluten in the food can affect your health. In some cases, even when you eat food that is contaminated with other gluten foods, the symptoms can trigger immediately and spoil your health.
Myth #3: Celiac problem is generic food allergy:
This is not a food allergy and it is an autoimmune disease. If proper care is not taken about this condition, it can severely affect the health condition in the long run. Medical examination and guidance are necessary to handle the problem. The working of the small intestine can get affected due to this condition and this leads to malnutrition and overall weakness in the long run.
Myth #4: Celiac disease is a genetic problem:
This is not true and people with a family history of celiac disease need not always get this autoimmune disease. However, the chances of getting this disease increases when it is combined with other factors.
When you are diagnosed with Celiac disease, there is no need to panic as it can be managed effectively when you have a strict gluten-free diet. Always take the help of your dietician to manage your everyday diet and this will help you to avoid gluten foods. When you stay away from gluten foods for a few months, you can notice a significant improvement in the overall health condition. In some cases, when the damage to the intestine is too much, doctors can even suggest some medications to control the damage. With proper care, it becomes easy to manage the condition. However, you must remember that the fight must continue for the rest of your life and you should get adjusted to a gluten-free diet so that your immune system does not get agitated in any manner in future.