Celiac Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment



Overview

September 13, 2021 is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the small intestine becomes damaged when gluten is consumed. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, it prompts an immune response in the small intestine. The lining of the small intestine that is responsible for nutrient absorption becomes damaged and nutrients are not able to be absorbed properly. This can lead to serious complications in the body. There is no cure for celiac disease, however following a gluten free diet had been proven to ease symptoms and help intestinal healing.


Causes

There is no specific cause of celiac disease. However, celiac disease is commonly hereditary. If someone in your family has celiac disease and you begin to experience symptoms, ask your doctor to be tested. Additionally, celiac disease has been seen to become active in people after they experience surgery, pregnancy, viral infection, or sever emotional stress.


Symptoms

Digestive symptoms:

  • Diarrhea

  • Fatigue

  • Weight loss

  • Bloating and gas

  • Abdominal pain

  • Nausea

  • Constipation

Other symptoms:

  • Anemia

  • Itchy skin/rash

  • Loss of bone density

  • Joint pain

  • Headache

  • Mouth ulcers

  • Numbness in hands or feet


Long-term Health Effects

If celiac disease goes undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to many long-term health conditions including:

  • Anemia

  • Osteoporosis

  • Infertility and miscarriage

  • Gall bladder malfunction

  • Lactose intolerance

  • Intestinal lymphomas and other GI cancers

  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

  • Central and peripheral nervous system disorders

  • Pancreatic insufficiency

  • Malnutrition


Treatment

Treatment includes eating a strict gluten free diet. A gluten free diet includes not consuming foods with wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. As gluten is common in many well-loved foods such as, bread, pasta, and bear, there are many gluten free alternatives and brands to shop from. It is important to consult a doctor before trying a gluten free diet. See your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms above for more than two weeks.


References


1. “What Is Celiac Disease?” Celiac Disease Foundation, Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/.

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