What Are the Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Celiac Disease?
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Many people have heard of celiac disease (CD) and know it has something to do with wheat-free/gluten-free diets. Here are some facts that will help you understand the disease and why it is so important to follow a gluten-free diet.
Celiac Disease is an Autoimmune Disease. It is a disease that affects the small intestine causing inflammation. It is triggered by the ingestion of protein from gluten found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is the potential pathogen in which the body reacts with an immune response causing inflammation that leads to malabsorption of nutrients in the small intestine.
Celiac Disease Can Hit at Any Time. You can develop celiac disease at any time, typically from age 2 and at any age through adulthood. We know that there is a genetic predisposition but we do not know what triggers its onset. Observationally, we see patients develop CD after a medical stress such as pregnancy or a very severe attack of gastroenteritis. The important thing to remember is that you can develop CD at any age with or without any medical stress event.
Don’t Give Up Eating Gluten Before Getting Tested For Celiac. If you suspect you have CD, talk to your physician about getting tested before you stop eating gluten. If you are not eating gluten, there is no way to tell if you have any antibodies to gluten. The test for CD involves a blood screening test for antibodies. If the blood test comes back positive, a biopsy of the small intestine is needed to make the diagnosis. It is important to rule out that you have CD since celiac patients are at risk for developing other autoimmune disease, iron anemia and even cancer of the small intestine.
There is a Link Between Celiac Disease and Osteoporosis. Because CD causes malabsorption of nutrients, patients do not absorb enough vitamin D and calcium which adversely affects bone health. The hope is that after following a gluten-free diet for a year these nutrients are better absorbed improving bone health.
Celiac Disease Presents Itself Differently in Different People. Symptoms range from gastrointestinal symptoms to memory issues. Though bloating, cramping and diarrhea are common gastrointestinal symptoms, some people with CD may only experience fatigue. Visit celiac.com to see a complete list of symptoms.
The Only Treatment for Celiac is A Gluten-free Diet. There is no pill or patch that cures CD. The only treatment for CD is the exclusion of gluten wheat, barley and rye from the diet. Even a small amount of gluten can be harmful to a person with CD. The FDA will soon finalize its definition of gluten-free as under 20 parts per million. So while companies work hard to create gluten-free products under 20 parts per million, eating out in restaurants still remains a challenge. If you have been diagnosed with CD, it is important to visit with a registered dietitian nutritionist experienced in working with patients with CD to help remove all traces of gluten from your diet.
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Article provided Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services