What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is a disease that impairs your body’s ability to break down certain foods. People with celiac may get sick if they eat foods that contain a protein called gluten – such as in bread, pasta, pizza and cereals. Gluten damages the small intestine and the body can not absorb nutrients from food. The immune system responds by damaging villi, which are small finger-like projections in the small intestines. The damage to the villi doesn’t allow the body to absorb the nutrients it needs.
What causes Celiac Disease?
The exact cause of Celiac Disease is not known. Celiac Disease may run in families. It can affect people of any age, both male and females. Celiac disease is also known as celiac sprue. Some people may be “gluten-sensitive” but not test positive for celiac disease.
What are the symptoms of Celiac Disease?
The symptoms of Celiac Disease vary from person to person. Some people have no symptoms. Some people have stomach pains, diarrhea, gas, weight loss, bloating, low appetite, itchy skin rashes, anemia and weakening of the bones. Even with no symptoms, long term health problems from not absorbing essential nutrients properly can occur.
How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
Certain blood tests can determine the blood level of antibodies (proteins) that become high in those with celiac disease. It is important that you continue a diet with foods that contain gluten to measure these antibodies. A tissue sample (biopsy) collected during an upper endoscopy also confirms if you have the disease.
How is Celiac Disease treated?
The best treatment is to stop eating gluten completely. This may take a lifestyle adjustment to avoid rye, wheat, barley, malt, brewer’s yeast and oats. Carefully read labels on food and food products as gluten is a hidden ingredient in many prepared foods, medications and supplements. You may need to avoid dairy products for a while to let your small intestine heal. You CAN eat rice, corn, potato, soybeans, fruits, vegetables and other gluten free foods. People usually feel a lot better within a few weeks of starting a gluten-free diet. You may want to get help from a dietitian to learn how to keep a nutritionally balanced gluten free diet.
For more information visit: gluten.net, or celiacawareness.org.