Some genetically-predisposed people developed Celiac disease when they consume gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Unfortunately, this autoimmune disorder afflicts about 1 in 100 people all over the world. However, medical professionals believed that up to two and a half million people suffer from it, but are not diagnosed. As such, this will put them at risk for long-term complications.
When a response is triggered in people with Celiac disease, the villi, those finger-like projections that line the inside of the intestine, are attacked. Over time, they reduced in length to almost nothing. And they do not regenerate. Because they are responsible for absorbing nutrients into the body, they no longer can do that efficiently. They have eroded down in size. Because it is genetic, a first-degree relative (parent, child sibling) has a 1 in 10 chance of developing it too.
Not all people that are gluten intolerant have Celiac disease. Therefore, if you are experiencing gluten intolerant symptoms, see your physician. They can run a serologic blood test that will screen for celiac antibodies. If found, a biopsy of the small intestine usually follows to look for celiac damage and to confirm the diagnosis.
While there are actually over 300 different symptoms of Celiac disease, these are the most common:
- Abdominal bloating and pain
- Chronic diarrhea
- Pale, foul-smelling or fatty stools
- Weight loss
Keep in mind, with Celiac disease, the body does not take in the required amount of nutrients. So, children, due to a lack of nutrition, may develop other symptoms. They may fail to grow, delay onset of puberty, have behavioral issues, irritability and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
If left untreated, Celiac disease can lead to serious health problems, including disorders like:
- Type I Diabetes
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy skin rash)
- Intestinal cancer
The only known treatment is strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. Foods to avoid include anything made with wheat, rye and barley, including breads and beer.
Some people are so sensitive. Even eating crumbs from a product containing gluten can trigger a response, resulting in intestinal damage. It is vitally important for them to read ingredient labels very carefully.
Also, when eating out, be sure and ask which items are gluten-free. Food manufacturers and restaurants are getting better about identifying gluten-free products, but when unsure ask or don’t eat it.
There is life on a gluten-free diet. But, you’ll need more discipline about what you put in your mouth and how you take care of yourself.