Feature by Amadu Kamil Sanah, Toms River, New Jersey, USA
New Jersey, Nov. 6, GNA - Celiac Disease is a common disorder that affects one in 133 people.
In this disease, individuals have a reaction to gluten, which is contained in certain food products. The reaction injures the lining of the digestive system and causes a wide variety of symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Celiac Disease?
The most common symptoms of Celiac Disease are diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain. Some patients may experience weight loss, anemia or other vitamin deficiencies. There may be delayed growth or delayed puberty in children.
Other symptoms may include fatigue, bone pain, headaches and muscle aches.
Some people with the disease may have no symptoms at all. The disorder is often attributed to Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Fibromyalgia as the symptoms are so varied.
Causes of Celiac Disease
Some individuals have a genetic susceptibility to Celiac Disease and stress or other illness can trigger the disease to develop and parents or sibling with the disorder, may have one in 20 chance of developing the disease. Celiac Disease may be diagnosed in childhood.
Others may not find out about the disease until adulthood due to later onset of the disease or a delay in the diagnosis.
What is gluten and what foods are contained it?
Gluten is a mixture of proteins contained in wheat, rye, barley and malt. Due to cross contamination, oats may also contain gluten if not labeled strictly gluten free. Gluten is therefore in many food staples such as bread, pasta, cakes and pizza.
How gluten affects the bowel in Celiac Disease
When patients with Celiac Disease eat products containing gluten, an inflammatory reaction starts by their body’s own immune system takes place in the digestive system.
This reaction causes the surface lining of the small intestine to become damaged. An injured small bowel cannot function properly and absorb the nutrients in food. This causes the patient to develop malabsorption or the inability to process food products.
How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
According to Jill Collier, Medical Director, Endoscopy Centre of Toms River, Celiac Disease can be detected with blood testing. Blood tests can show elevated antibody levels in affected patients. The blood tests are specific and if positive, almost certainly reflect the underlying disease.
Patients with immune deficiencies may have the disease even with negative blood testing. Genetic testing is also available.
Once positive blood tests are identified, doctors will need to obtain a biopsy of the small intestine to confirm the disorder.
A procedure called an upper endoscopy can be scheduled to obtain the necessary tissue. This procedure takes only about five minutes and is performed by a gastroenterologist with the patient asleep with intravenous sedation.
How is Celiac Disease treated?
Jill Collier said Celiac Disease is treated with a gluten-free diet. This diet means avoiding all foods that include wheat, barley, rye, malt or oats (unless specified gluten-free oats).
All prepared foods are labeled and required to list the ingredients that make shopping easier than the past.
Many foods are also marked as gluten free. Foods such as meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables and cheeses are naturally gluten free. There are many gluten free prepared foods available in the local supermarket and many restaurants have gluten-free menu options.
Who helps to manage Celiac Disease?
Once a patient is diagnosed, it is important to meet a nutritionist to learn about a gluten-free lifestyle. Patients and family members can educate themselves about the disease from health professionals, doctors, health books and websites.
Celiac Disease is a common disorder, which may lead to diarrhea and abdominal pain.
It is often misdiagnosed as other common illnesses. It can be diagnosed with lab and endoscopic testing and its treatment is available in the form of diet modification.