What is Celiac or Coeliac Disease?
Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine and is triggered by the consumption of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, their immune system attacks the small intestine, causing damage to the villi (the finger-like projections that line the small intestine and aid in nutrient absorption). This can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including diarrhea, abdominal pain, and malnutrition.
Symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly from person to person, and can include:
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Unexplained weight loss
- Delayed growth in children
- Skin rashes
- Neurological symptoms such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- Infertility and miscarriages
It is important to note that not everyone with celiac disease will have all of these symptoms, and some people may have no symptoms at all. This can make it difficult to diagnose, and many people with celiac disease may not be aware they have it.
Diagnosis of celiac disease typically involves a combination of blood tests and a biopsy of the small intestine. The blood tests look for antibodies that are present in the blood of someone with celiac disease, while the biopsy is used to confirm the presence of damage to the villi.
The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all foods that contain gluten, including bread, pasta, cereal, and many processed foods. It’s also important to be aware that gluten can be found in unexpected places, such as in medications and in lip balm, so it is important to read labels and ask questions to ensure that all sources of gluten are avoided.
A gluten-free diet can be challenging, but it is essential for managing celiac disease and preventing further damage to the small intestine. With a gluten-free diet, the small intestine will heal and the person with celiac disease will start to feel better.
It’s important to note that a gluten-free diet is not a weight loss diet, it’s a medical necessity for people with celiac disease. And, this diet should only be followed under the guidance of a doctor or a dietitian, who can help you make sure that you are getting all the nutrients you need while avoiding gluten.
Celiac disease is a serious condition that requires careful management, but with a strict gluten-free diet, people with celiac disease can lead healthy lives. If you suspect you or someone you know may have celiac disease, it’s important to talk to your doctor and get tested.