Celiac disease is a severe autoimmune disorder that can cause various health problems if left untreated. If you are one of the estimated 1 in 133 Americans with celiac disease, then you know how important it is to understand this condition. This article discusses all aspects of celiac disease, from its symptoms to its treatment, in hopes that by reading this article, you will better understand celiac disease and how to manage it.
What Is Celiac Disease
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Celiac disease is a condition that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is consumed. For people with celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in the small intestine; this response damages the villi, which are fingerlike projections that line the small intestine and help absorb nutrients from food—leading to malabsorption, a condition in which nutrients are not properly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.
Risk Factors For Celiac Disease
Although there is no exact science to understand the cause of this condition, there are several risk factors for celiac disease. Genetic factors seem to play a role, as the disease is more common in people with certain genes. Environmental factors may also contribute, as celiac disease is more common in countries where wheat is a diet staple.
Other risk factors include having another autoimmune disorder, such as Type 1 diabetes or thyroid disease, and viral infection, such as Epstein-Barr virus or rotavirus. While anyone can develop celiac disease, these risk factors may increase your chances of developing the condition.
Symptoms Of Celiac Disease
For many people, the symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly, making it difficult to diagnose. However, there are some common symptoms that everyone should be aware of:
For people with celiac disease, fatigue is a common symptom. The fatigue is from the immune reaction to gluten, which damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents the absorption of nutrients. When nutrients are not absorbed properly, the body does not have the energy it needs to function optimally. In addition, celiac disease can also cause anemia, which can further contribute to fatigue.
Anemia is a condition in which there is a decrease in red blood cells, resulting in a decrease in the body’s oxygen supply. People with celiac disease can develop anemia due to their damaged intestines being unable to absorb enough iron from food.
When celiac disease is untreated, it can cause a range of gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea is one of the most common symptoms of celiac disease. The damage to the small intestine caused by gluten prevents the absorption of nutrients, resulting in loose and frequent bowel movements. But that may not be the only cause. Celiac disease can also trigger inflammation and mucus production in the intestines.
When the immune system reacts to gluten, it can produce inflammation-causing chemicals that damage the lining of the intestine, resulting in diarrhea. If you are experiencing chronic diarrhea and suspect that you may have celiac disease, it is essential to see a doctor for a diagnosis.
Celiac disease affects the digestive system and can cause a range of symptoms, including abdominal pain. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, their immune system attacks the lining of the small intestine, causing inflammation and damage, resulting in stomach pain and cramping. In addition, celiac disease can also cause gastrointestinal discomfort, such as gas and bloating.
In severe cases, celiac disease can also lead to complications such as intestinal blockages, which can cause severe abdominal pain.
In addition to the common symptoms mentioned above, celiac disease can also cause many other symptoms, including things like weight loss, nausea, vomiting, constipation, unexplained headaches or migraines, joint pain, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, tooth discoloration or loss of enamel, missed menstrual periods, and depression or anxiety.
It is important to note that not everyone with celiac disease will experience all of these symptoms, and some may experience symptoms not listed here. It is also important to remember that these symptoms can have other causes and may not necessarily be related to celiac disease.
How Celiac Disease Is Diagnosed
When someone visits a doctor with any of the above symptoms of digestive issues, the first step is to rule out some of the more common causes, which may involve taking a medical history, doing a physical examination, and running some tests. If celiac disease is suspected, the next step is to confirm the diagnosis. The gold standard for diagnosing celiac disease is a small bowel biopsy, which involves inserting a long, thin tube through the mouth and into the small intestine.
A small tissue sample is removed and examined for damage to the villi. While this procedure is generally considered safe, it is invasive and can be uncomfortable for some patients. As a result, many doctors will first order a blood test that looks for antibodies associated with celiac disease. If these tests are positive, they will often proceed to do a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment Options For Celiac Disease
Celiac disease can lead to serious health problems, including malnutrition, anemia, and even intestinal cancer, when left untreated. Fortunately, many treatment options are available for those suffering from this condition. The essential step in treating celiac disease is eliminating gluten from the diet, which can be challenging, as gluten is in many common foods, including bread and pasta. However, there are now many gluten-free options available at most supermarkets.
In addition, some people with celiac disease may also need to take supplements to ensure they get enough nutrients. Finally, regular checkups with a doctor are essential to monitoring the condition and ensuring it is appropriately treated. With the right steps, you can manage celiac disease effectively, and those affected can lead healthy and happy lives.
Managing Celiac Disease Is Possible!
Celiac disease is a severe condition that can cause various symptoms and complications, some of which can be severe. But the good news is you can manage it with the right treatment plan. If you suspect you may have celiac disease, you must see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate care. Remember, the key to managing this condition is sticking to a strict gluten-free diet, but with the right support and resources, living a gluten-free lifestyle is achievable. So don’t feel alone in this – there are plenty of resources and support groups to help you navigate living with celiac disease.