Celiac disease is a chronic intestinal disease that is caused by the body’s heightened sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Although the earliest known reports of celiac disease date back to the first century AD, celiac disease is now being diagnosed with increasing frequency due to improved testing and heightened public awareness.
Although most people with Celiac disease do not have clear symptoms, they often suffer from gastrointestinal complaints, such as gas, bloating, and flatulence. Other signs of Celiac disease are related to the body’s difficulty in absorbing food, resulting in diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss.
Celiac disease may also create symptoms outside the gastrointestinal tract, such as rashes (dermatitis herpetiformis) and anemia due to deficiencies of iron, folic acid, B12, calcium, magnesium, zinc or other needed nutrients. In young children, Celiac disease can result in developmental problems.
Celiac disease is an inherited disease associated with certain chromosomal markers. That means it’s important to review your family history to see if parents or siblings have suffered from these types of problems. In many cases, screening of the blood looking for certain antibodies may assist in making a diagnosis of Celiac disease. Confirming this condition may require taking biopsies from the duodenum during an upper endoscopy.
The treatment of Celiac disease requires lifelong strict adherence to a gluten-restricted diet. This can be difficult due to the widespread use of gluten in many food products. However, an increasing number of grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants are now aware of Celiac disease and offer patrons gluten-free foods. Consultation with a registered nutritionist is also often recommended and usually proves quite helpful in the successful treatment of this condition.
In rare instances, specific nutritional therapies and corticosteroids may be necessary to manage Celiac disease. In any case, regular follow-up care with a gastroenterologist is advised to manage potential complications, including malignancies of the GI tract and other associated conditions.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have signs and symptoms of celiac disease, the physicians and nutrition staff at Gastro Health can assist in the diagnosis and management of the condition.