What is Celiac Disease?

It is a hereditary condition that involves gluten intolerance whereby the digestive system is impaired by not being able to absorb certain nutrients, particularly the small intestine. One percent of the worldwide population has been found to have celiac disease, with its occurence increasing in recent years. While many people in the US have never been diagnosed, it seems to be more common in Caucasian people.

One significant thing about celiac disease relates to the fact that people can be sensitive or intolerant to gluten without having the disease; this is known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Research is still in progress on how to differentiate between celiac disease and other underlying digestive diseases. It is known that celiac disease has multiple manifestations and has been connected to liver, pancreatic illnesses and even cancer.

  • What are Typical Symptoms and How is it Diagnosed?

Diarrhea, anemia, intestinal pain, excessive gas, weight loss, fatigue, osteoporosis, altered bowel habits are common symptoms. However, some of those who suffer from this disease do not present any manifestations. Even when they do, celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose because the clinical picture can coincide with other illnesses.

Celiac disease can develop under conditions of severe stress, injury, gastrointestinal infection or pregnancy. Sufferers have an increased risk of mortality if intestinal complications are not controlled. Possible complications, like cancer, can be dead serious. However, the rate of mortality is low when adequate dietary adjustments are made. Also, improvements in diagnosis and treatment are continuously being developed in various countries.

A blood sample analysis needs to be performed because it has been found that people with intolerance to gluten have a disproportionate amount of certain antibodies. Biopsies of the small intestine can also be obtained. To do that, doctors use an instrument known as endoscope.

  • What Type of Foods Contain Gluten?

Gluten is a protein primarily found in wheat, barley and rye. This protein is incompletely digested by intolerant individuals. Hidden or unknown sources of gluten can be found in oats, soy sauce and processed meats, just to name a few.

  • What Issues Should We be Aware Of?
An individual with celiac disease must follow a strict gluten-free diet. A doctor or nutritionist can advise what foods will be required for a proper diet. Bread and pasta substitutes are easily found, but they’re pricier.

After a diet free of gluten is formally practiced, the intestinal mucosa of the patient should show marked progress. Hidden sources of gluten are especially problematic for celiac patients, since exposure to hidden gluten can give rise to recurring symptoms.

Patients with celiac disease need to be well-informed to better manage all symptoms, reduce risks of more serious health complications and improve their quality of life!

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