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Also called gluten-sensitive enteropathy and celiac sprue, celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disorder, wherein the consumption of gluten-based foods leads to damage to the tissues that line the small intestine. This hinders the ability of your body to absorb the essential nutrients from the foods you eat.
Under normal conditions, the immune system of the body offers protection against external intruders. When individuals diagnosed with celiac disease consume gluten-based foods, gluten resistant antibodies are formed by the immune system. This causes them to attack the linings around the intestines, thus causing irritation in the digestive tract and harming the villi (hair-like structures on the covering of the small intestine which absorb nutrients from the food). This impairs the nutrient absorbing capacity of the individual, thus increasing chances of malnourishment.
Celiac disease has symptoms that vary from patient to patient. Some of the common symptoms include:
- A severe skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis.
- Digestive problems such as:
- Musculoskeletal problems such as bone and joint pain as well as muscle cramps
- Aphthous ulcers which are basically sores occurring in the mouth
- Tingling sensation in the legs which are caused by low calcium and nerve damage
- Growth issues in children since they cannot absorb the required amount of nutrients
- Irregular menstrual cycles
Other complications associated with celiac disease
- Miscarriage or Infertility
- Osteoporosis. This is a disease which weakens the bones and causes fractures. It is caused because of a deficiency of Vitamin D and calcium.
- Intestinal Cancer
- Other birth defects: Such as irregular spinal shape because of the deficiency of certain nutrients, especially folic acid.