An autoimmune disorder, celiac disease (previously known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is triggered by an abnormal immune response when you consume anything with gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats.
The resulting immune response causes your immune system to damage the lining of your small intestine, affecting your body's ability to absorb nutrients during the process of digestion.
Many foods contain gluten, including cereal, pizza, beer, bread, pastries, and pasta. People with celiac disease may get symptoms when they eat food that contains gluten, although not all patients will have symptoms. Signs and symptoms may include:
What are the Causes of Celiac Disease?
While there isn't a definite cause for celiac disease, researchers have found that certain risk factors can make you more predisposed to developing celiac disease. This can include
- Genetics—a family history of the celiac disease increases your chances of having it as well
- Race—certain ethnic groups are more likely to develop celiac disease
- Other autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes and thyroid disease
- Down or Turner syndromes
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, approximately 2 million in the United States have celiac disease.
What are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
As a chronic disorder, symptoms of celiac disease can ebb and flow throughout your life. Eating gluten in any amount can trigger one or multiple symptoms, which can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Bone and/or joint pain
- Foul-smelling stool
- Loss of weight
- Skin rashes
As celiac disease can damage the small intestine and affect your body's ability to absorb important nutrients, the effects of this autoimmune disorder on children can be pronounced. The following development factors can get affected:
- Damage to teeth enamel
- Delayed puberty
- Inability to gain weight for a particular age
- Changes in mood
- Loss of weight
- Changes to growth—can affect height
Treatment for Celiac Disease is Safe When Recommended by a Board-Certified Gastroenterologist
A board-certified gastroenterologist can help diagnose celiac disease. Adopting a strict gluten-free diet is the best way to treat celiac disease. A dietician may be able to help with this.
Your doctor may require the following tests to help diagnose celiac disease:
- Blood tests, including a complete blood count (CBC) to check for anemia, and a celiac panel to check for antibodies that suggest celiac disease
- A gastroenterologist may perform an upper endoscopy (EGD) to take tissue samples from the small intestine to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for celiac disease does not involve the use of medications. Instead, it revolves around adopting a strict gluten-free diet and avoiding products that contain gluten, such as:
- Bread and pastries
- Crackers and cookies
Reading food labels and talking to a dietician to develop a gluten-free meal plan and discovering new gluten-free products and foods are all essential to living with celiac disease.