What Is Celiac Disease ?
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder caused by wheat products or barley. People affected with this disease should avoid gluten containing foods like pasta, bread, cookies and pizza. Any food that includes wheat or rye products should not be taken since it can produce allergic reaction in the small intestine thereby damaging the tissues of small intestine. It may even produce intense pain in the abdomen and cause diarrhea. Since most of the food items are to be avoided, it can cause mal-absorption or lack of nutrients in the body causing various complications. Lack of protein and vitamins can cause damage in the bones, liver, nerves and even your brain. Celiac disease can be easily managed by making little changes in the daily diet.
Celiac Disease Symptoms :
Some of the important symptoms of this disease are frequent bowel movements, pain the abdomen and bloated sensation. Many people may not have any symptoms mentioned above. Instead they may have signs of irritation, anemia, anxiety, depression, skin rashes, ulcers, joint pain and bone related problems like osteoporosis. Some people may also have tingling feeling in legs and arms affecting their nervous system.
In addition, there can be loss of weight, cramps in the abdomen, foul smelling stool, and diarrhea and bone weakness. Children affected with this problem may not eat well and will get exhausted easily. Gluten intolerance can also cause dermatitis herpetiformis which affects the skin causing rashes on the body more particularly in buttocks and scalp.
Celiac Disease Causes :
- Possible cause of celiac disease can be genetic. Intolerance or allergy to gluten containing food can run on families. It can also occur due to auto immune disorder in which the body’s immunity overact with the tissues when gluten is absorbed in the intestine.
- Actually celiac disease damages the tiny hair like structure (villi) present in the small intestine making it unable to absorb the essential nutrients from the foodstuff. This would cause impairment of growth affecting the general health condition producing weakness due to mal-nutrition.
- The chance of getting celiac disease is much higher if you have family history of this condition.
Who Are At Risk ?
People with digestive disorders and autoimmune disorders like thyroid problems can develop this disease. The chance of getting this problem is more for children with Down’s syndrome and adults with diabetes.
What Happens If Not Treated ?
In case you simply ignore the symptoms, gradually this disease can affect your health. Due to malnutrition you may start losing weight and your bones become soft and may get broken easily. It may lose the normal brittleness and you become prone to osteoporosis and fracture. For some people, it can affect the nervous system and in rare cases can cause bowel cancer or intestinal lymphoma.
The doctor can identify the problem by blood test which would show higher levels of antibodies in the blood. The body’s immune system will identify gluten as foreign substance and increase the production of antibodies for destroying it. Sometimes, he may do a biopsy on the small intestine for removing small tissue to detect gluten intolerance. This is normally done by endoscopic method inserting a small tube into the mouth and sending it deep into the intestine for cutting tiny tissue.
Celiac Disease Treatment :
Celiac disease cannot be treated but your doctor will tell you methods to manage the right nutritional level in your blood. Foods containing barley, wheat, rye, bulgur, semolina, oats, graham flour and spelt should be avoided. People affected with celiac disease should consult a dietician for eating balanced nutrition without the above products. The symptoms of abdominal pain and inflammation of small intestine can be managed by taking anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids. Inflammation of small intestine will gradually get reduced once the person stops taking gluten in daily food. However it can take several months for the symptoms to subside.
In case you eat any food containing gluten it would again cause diarrhea or abdominal pain. Many people with this disease will have to take vitamin supplements like calcium, iron, and vitamin B12 orally or by injection. By checking the levels of vitamin in your blood you should continue taking additional vitamins of D and K regularly. Any food free of gluten can be taken by the affected person. There are several items like buckwheat, amaranth, corn, arrowroot, cornmeal, rice and corn flour, potato and beans can be taken freely. Similarly you can substitute your daily diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, milk and other dairy products. Nowadays, breads and pastas without gluten are available in the market which can be taken by people suffering from celiac disease.