What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease, also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is a common condition that affects people of all ages, in which the immune system creates an allergic reaction against the gluten, a protein founded in some cereals like wheat, barley, and rye. The immune reaction causes damage in your small intestine, resulting in malabsorption of some nutrients and certain other symptoms described below.
Celiac Disease Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of celiac disease can be different between children and adults. Some symptoms related to each age group include:
In adults, digestive symptoms are more non-specific than in children, including:
- Iron deficiency
- Occasional abdominal pain.
- Weight loss
- Mouth ulcers
- Loss of bone density
- Skin rash
- Joint pain
Children show more digestive problems than adults and also suffer more from the consequences of malabsorption, including:
- Chronic diarrhea and constipation
- Swollen abdomen
- Smelling stools
- Damage to teeth
- Weight loss
- Failure to thrive
- Delayed puberty
- Attention deficit and learning disabilities
Celiac Disease Common Causes
The principal cause of celiac disease remains unknown until now. However, a genetic predisposition and environmental exposure have been established as important factors to suffering for this allergic reaction.
When someone with celiac disease eats food with gluten, the immune system overreacts to this molecule and as a consequence, the reaction cause damages in the small intestine mucosa, which normally is responsible for the absorption of vitamins and nutrients from food, resulting in the typical symptoms associated.
There are some risk factors related to celiac disease, including:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Celiac disease family history
- Down syndrome
- Some autoimmune diseases like Addison’s disease and autoimmune thyroiditis
Celiac Disease Diagnosis
Since the symptoms related to celiac disease can be very unspecific, diagnosis can be confused with other diseases that also affect the digestive system. However, in case your doctor suspects you have celiac disease, there are some specific tests to detect it, including:
- Blood tests. There are some antibodies in your blood that indicates an immune reaction to gluten that can be measured.
- Genetic study. If you have the human leukocyte antigens HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8, chances of having celiac disease are very high.
- Upper endoscopy and biopsy. Your doctor will use a large tube attached to a tiny camera to look into your upper digestive tract and will take a little sample of tissue (biopsy) to examine the damage of your small intestine mucosa.
Celiac Disease Treatment
The only effective treatment for celiac disease is elimination of gluten from your diet. After eliminating the gluten, the small intestine will heal gradually and symptoms will disappear.
You might require the help of a dietitian to establish an alimentation program and to know which food you can take and which you can’t. Besides wheat and barley, some food that contain gluten include: