Is Celiac Disease?
disease is a digestive disorder caused by an abnormal immune reaction to
gluten. Celiac disease is also known as:
- nontropical sprue
- gluten intolerance
- gluten-sensitive enteropathy
is a protein found in foods made with wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. It is
also found in oats that have been made in processing plants that handle other
grains. Gluten can even be found in some medicines, vitamins, and lipsticks.
Gluten intolerance, also known as gluten sensitivity, is characterized by the
body's inability to digest or break down gluten. Some people with gluten
intolerance have a mild sensitivity to gluten, while others have full-blown
celiac disease, the immune response to gluten creates toxins that destroy the
villi. Villi are tiny finger-like protrusions inside the small intestines. When
the villi become damaged, the body is unable to absorb nutrients from food.
This can lead to malnutrition and other serious health complications, including
permanent intestinal damage.
to the National
Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 1 in 141 Americans
has celiac disease. People with celiac disease need to eliminate all forms of gluten
from their diet. This includes most bread products, baked goods, beer, and foods
where gluten may be used as a stabilizing ingredient.
Are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
disease symptoms usually involve the intestines and digestive system, but they
can also affect other parts of the body. Children and adults tend to have a
different set of symptoms.
Celiac Disease Symptoms in Children
with celiac disease can feel tired and irritable. They may also be smaller than
normal and have delayed puberty. Other common symptoms include:
- weight loss
- abdominal bloating
- abdominal pain
- persistent diarrhea or constipation
- pale, fatty, foul-smelling stools
Celiac Disease Symptoms in Adults
with celiac disease may experience digestive symptoms. In most cases, however,
symptoms also affect other areas of the body. These symptoms may include:
- iron-deficiency anemia
- joint pain and stiffness
- weak, brittle bones
- skin disorders
- numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- tooth discoloration or loss of enamel
- pale sores inside the mouth
- irregular menstrual periods
- infertility and miscarriage
herpetiformis (DH) is another common symptom of celiac disease. DH is an
intensely itchy skin rash made up of bumps and blisters. It may develop on the
elbows, buttocks, and knees. DH affects approximately 15 to 25 percent of people with
celiac disease. Those who do experience DH usually don’t have digestive
important to note that symptoms can vary from person to person depending on
various factors, including:
- the length of
time someone was breast-fed as an infant
- the age someone
started eating gluten
- the amount of
gluten someone eats
- the severity of
people with celiac disease have no symptoms. However, they may still develop long-term
complications as a result of their disease.
an appointment with your doctor right away if you suspect that you or your
child has celiac disease. When diagnosis and treatment are delayed,
complications are more likely to occur.
Is at Risk for Celiac Disease?
disease runs in families. According to the University of Chicago Medical
Center, people have a 1 in 22 chance of developing celiac disease if their
parent or sibling has the condition.
who have other autoimmune diseases and certain genetic disorders are also more
likely to have celiac disease. Some conditions associated with celiac disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- type 1 diabetes
- thyroid disease
- autoimmune liver disease
- Addison’s disease
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Down syndrome
- Turner syndrome
- lactose intolerance
- intestinal cancer
- intestinal lymphoma
Is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
begins with a physical examination and a medical history.
will also perform various tests to help confirm a diagnosis. People with celiac
disease often have high levels of antiendomysium (EMA) and anti-tissue
transglutaminase (tTGA) antibodies. These can be detected with blood tests.
Tests are most reliable when they’re performed while gluten is still in the
blood tests include:
people with DH, a skin biopsy can also help doctors diagnose celiac disease.
During a skin biopsy, the doctor will remove tiny pieces of skin tissue for
examination with a microscope. If the skin biopsy and blood test results
indicate celiac disease, an internal biopsy may not be necessary.
cases where blood test or skin biopsy results are inconclusive, an upper
endoscopy can be used to test for celiac disease. During an upper endoscopy, a thin
tube called an endoscope is threaded through the mouth and down into the small
intestines. A small camera attached to the endoscope allows the doctor to
examine the intestines and to check for damage to the villi. The doctor can
also perform an intestinal biopsy, which involves the removal of a tissue
sample from the intestines for analysis.
Is Celiac Disease Treated?
only way to treat celiac disease is to permanently remove gluten from your diet.
This allows the intestinal villi to heal and to begin absorbing nutrients
properly. Your doctor will teach you how to avoid gluten while following a
nutritious and healthy diet. They will also give you instructions on how to read
food and product labels so you can identify any ingredients that contain
can improve within days of removing gluten from the diet. However, you shouldn’t
stop eating gluten until a diagnosis is made. Removing gluten prematurely may interfere
with test results and lead to an inaccurate diagnosis.
Precautions for People with Celiac Disease
a gluten-free diet isn’t easy. Fortunately, many companies are now making
gluten-free products, which can be found at various grocery stores and
specialty food stores. The labels on these products will say “gluten-free.”
you have celiac disease, it is important to know which foods are safe. Here is
a series of food guidelines that can help you determine what to eat and what to
Avoid the Following Ingredients:
- graham flour
Gluten-Free Grains and Starches:
- flour made from rice, soy, corn, potatoes, or beans
- pure corn tortillas
Healthy, Gluten-Free Foods:
- fresh meats, fish, and poultry that haven’t been breaded,
coated, or marinated
- most dairy products
- starchy vegetables like peas, potatoes, including sweet
potatoes, and corn
- rice, beans, and lentils
- wine, distilled liquors, ciders, and spirits
Avoid Unless the Label Says Gluten-Free:
- cakes and pies
- imitation meats or seafood
- processed lunch meats, sausages, and hot dogs
- salad dressings
- sauces (includes soy sauce)
- self-basting poultry
symptoms should improve within days to weeks of making these dietary
adjustments. In children, the intestine usually heals in three to six months. Intestinal
healing may take several years in adults. Once the intestine completely heals,
the body will be able to absorb nutrients properly.