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What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disorder that’s triggered when you eat gluten.
Celiac disease is also known as:
• nontropical sprue
• gluten-sensitive enteropathy
More information can be found here:
Causes of Celiac Disease
Your genes combined with eating foods with gluten and other factors can contribute to celiac disease, but the precise cause isn’t known.
Infant-feeding practices, gastrointestinal infections and gut bacteria might contribute, as well.
Sometimes celiac disease becomes active after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection or severe emotional stress.
When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, it triggers an immune response in the small intestine.
Over a period of time, this reaction damages your small intestine’s lining and prevents it from absorbing some nutrients.
The intestinal damage often causes diarrhoea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and even anaemia.
Normally, the body’s immune system is designed to protect it from outside invaders.
When people with celiac disease eat foods that contain gluten, their immune system forms antibodies to gluten, which then attack the lining of the intestine.
Who is at Risk for Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease tends to be more common in people who have:
• A family member with celiac disease
• Type 1 diabetes
• rheumatoid arthritis
• lactose intolerance
• Down syndrome or Turner syndrome
• Intestinal cancer
• Microscopic colitis (lymphocytic or collagenous colitis)
• Addison’s disease
• People who have other autoimmune diseases.
Symptoms of celiac disease and accidentally eat something with gluten in it, vary among sufferers and include:
• Weight loss and anaemia
• Depression, irritability, and panic attacks
• Bloating and gas
• Bone and joint pain
• Abdominal pain
• Nerve damage, leading to tingling in the legs and feet
• Blood in the stools or in the urine
• Migraine headaches
• Mouth sores and tooth discolouration
• Abdominal cramps
• Nausea and vomiting
Symptoms can improve within days of removing gluten from the diet.
However, you shouldn’t stop eating gluten until a diagnosis is made.
Removing gluten prematurely may interfere with test results and lead to an inaccurate diagnosis.
How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
If your gastroenterologist thinks you might have celiac disease, he or she will perform a careful physical examination and will discuss your medical history with you.
They may also perform a blood test to measure levels of antibodies to gluten.
People with celiac disease have higher levels of certain antibodies in their blood.
A stool sample may be tested to detect fat in the stool since celiac disease prevents fat from being absorbed from food.
In cases where blood test or skin biopsy results are inconclusive, an upper endoscopy can be used to test for celiac disease.
During an upper endoscopy, a thin tube called an endoscope is threaded through the mouth and down into the small intestines.
A small camera attached to the endoscope allows the doctor to examine the intestines and to check for damage to the villi.
The only way to treat celiac disease is to permanently remove gluten from your diet.
This allows the intestinal villi to heal and to begin absorbing nutrients properly.
If necessary, your gastroenterologist will recommend a dietitian to work with and teach you how to avoid gluten while following a nutritious and healthy diet.
They will also give you instructions on how to read food and product labels so you can identify any ingredients that contain gluten.
Removing gluten from your diet will gradually reduce inflammation in your small intestine, causing you to feel better and eventually heal.
Children tend to heal more quickly than adults.
Gluten can be hidden in foods, medications and nonfood products, including:
• Modified food starch, preservatives and food stabilizers
• Prescription and over-the-counter medications
• Vitamin and mineral supplements
• Herbal and nutritional supplements
• Lipstick products
• Toothpaste and mouthwash
• Envelope and stamp glue
You’ll have to remain on this diet for the rest of your life; eating any gluten at all can damage your intestine and restart the problem.
Foods to Eat
A gluten-free diet is not that different from most healthy diets.
In addition to avoiding packaged or processed foods, you would fill your plate with naturally wholesome gluten-free foods such as:
• Dairy including yoghurt, butter, and non-processed cheeses (but check the label of flavoured dairy products)
• Fruits and vegetables including most of which are canned or dried
• Grains including rice, quinoa, corn, millet, tapioca, buckwheat, amaranth, arrowroot, teff, and gluten-free oats
• Legumes like beans, lentils, peas, peanuts
• Meat, poultry, and fish (not breaded or battered)
• Non-gluten starches including potato flour, cornflour, chickpea flour, soy flour, almond meal/flour, coconut flour, and tapioca flour
• Nuts and seeds
• Soy foods like tofu, tempeh, and edamame
• Tamari (a good substitute for soy sauce)
• Vegetable oils (preferably monounsaturated or polyunsaturated).
Medical follow-up at regular intervals can ensure that your symptoms have responded to a gluten-free diet.
Your gastroenterologist will monitor your response with blood tests.
For most people with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet will allow the small intestine to heal.
For children, that usually takes three to six months.
For adults, complete healing might take several years if you follow a consistent diet and treatment plan.
If you continue to have symptoms or if symptoms recur, discuss this with your gastroenterologist who will be able to advise you what to do next.
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.