Nearly 1% of Americans (at least 3 million people) suffer from celiac disease, a condition that’s triggered when one eats something containing gluten.
Gluten’s a protein that’s found in barley, rye, wheat and other grains. It’s responsible for the elastic quality of dough and the chewy texture of bread.
But when a person with celiac autoimmune disease eats food with gluten, their body reacts badly to the protein and destroys their villi (tiny finger-like projections that line the small intestine’s wall).
When the villi get damaged, the small intestine cannot absorb nutrients properly. This can eventually cause malnourishment, as well as miscarriages, reduction of bone density, infertility, certain cancers, or even the onset of neurological diseases.
In the following piece, we reveal everything you need to know about celiac disease, including what celiac disease is, a few facts about the disease, the symptoms, the causes and finally the best treatment options for the disorder.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac autoimmune disease is a persistent digestive condition that’s triggered by an immune system reaction to a gluten protein called gliadin, which is found in barley, rye, wheat and at times oats.
It involves destruction and inflammation of the small intestine’s inner lining and can cause poor absorption of nutrients and minerals.
Symptoms can include weight loss, fatigue, and diarrhea. Anemia is the only symptom in some cases, and celiac disorder isn’t diagnosed until further down the line.
Celiac disease can affect anyone at any age, as long as they’re genetically predisposed. However, it often starts in middle infancy.
It has no cure, and a gluten-free diet is the only effective remedy.
Quick Celiac Disease Facts
Here are a few key facts about celiac disease:
- Celiac disease refers to an autoimmune condition that causes someone to be intolerant to gluten.
- A gluten-free diet is the only effective remedy for celiac disease.
- Long-term effects include malnutrition and anemia.
- A diet free of gluten is recommended only for people with a gluten intolerance or allergy.
Symptoms of Celiac Autoimmune Disease
Celiac autoimmune disease is a permanent condition. Symptoms may range from severe to mild, they may vary between people, and they may change over time. Symptoms may not occur until later on, or some people may not even experience symptoms.
Some common celiac disease symptoms include:
- Persistent hunger
- Fluid retention
- Joint and bone pain
- Panic attacks, depression, and irritability
- Foul-smelling poos with extra fat in them
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Tooth discoloration and mouth sores
- Nutrition deficiencies and malnutrition, including a deficiency of vitamin D, K, and B12
- Nosebleeds and easy bruising
- Weakness and fatigue
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, gas, abdominal cramp, vomiting and nausea, as well as bloating
- Muscle cramps, muscle weakness, and muscle wasting
- Bloody urine or stools
- Nerve damage, resulting in tingling in the feet and legs
Some individuals develop a kind of skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). Blistering and red, raised patches can affect the knees, elbows, buttocks, face, and shoulders.
Apart from malnutrition and malabsorption, celiac disease can cause damage to the colon (large intestine), and minor damage to other vital organs.
Many people with mild symptoms suffer anemia and fatigue, and potentially only subtle abdominal discomfort, including excess gas, abdominal distension, and bloating. Some people have an overall feeling of being ill but have no clear symptoms of the disease.
In infants and children, there might be intestinal problems, like diarrhea, irritability, and delayed development or failure to thrive.
In time, kids may experience tooth enamel damage, weight loss, and delayed puberty.
Anxiety and stress may also cause symptoms.
What Causes Celiac Disease?
Unfortunately, researchers are yet to ascertain the exact cause of celiac disease. However, they believe that the causes of celiac disease have something to do with environmental factors combined with genetics.
Having a relative with celiac disease can increase your risk of developing the condition, research reveals. For instance, someone with a very close relative has a 4.55% risk of developing the disease too.
Individuals with a genetic condition, such as Turner syndrome or Down syndrome, are also at a greater risk of developing celiac disease.
If you suffer from another autoimmune condition, you’re more likely to get celiac disease too. These conditions include:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Thyroid disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjogren’s syndrome
What Are the Most Effective Options to Treat Celiac Autoimmune Disorder?
While you might stumble upon alternative ways to treat celiac disease on the internet, your best hope for keeping celiac symptoms in check is to adopt a gluten-free diet.
If you have just received confirmation that you have the disease, the news might be pretty devastating for you. For some people, it may mean fully changing their diet. However, hiring a dietician may help you make the switch to a diet without gluten while still enjoying healthy, nutritious food.
Your dietician will teach you how to:
- Design meal plans
- Choose healthy foods
- Find and remove hidden gluten sources from your diet
- Understand foods which are naturally gluten-free
- Use product labels and food to find out ingredients that have gluten
After adopting a gluten-free diet, it’s recommended that you continue to visit your doctor for regular checkups to ensure that your health problem is improving. Doctors recommend another visit 4-6 weeks after getting started on the diet.
But don’t worry! Your symptoms may begin to improve within days of adopting a gluten-free diet.
The Bottom Line
Celiac autoimmune disease is a serious medical condition where the immune system causes damage to the small intestine when reacting to gluten consumption.
If left untreated, this condition can lead to many serious side effects, such as nutritional deficiencies, digestive issues, tiredness, and weight loss.
If you think you’ve got celiac disease, consult your doctor about having an examination. For those with the condition, sticking to a gluten-free diet may help to reduce and manage the symptoms.
At Meritage Medical Network, we’ve got primary care and specialist physicians to help treat whatever medical condition you’re suffering from. Contact us for more information.