Celiac Disease is a genetic digestive disease where people are unable to tolerate and absorb gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley, and more than two million Americans have the disease. Celiac’s involves an immunity problem where every time a person eats gluten, his or her immunity system attacks and damages fingerlike protusions called villi that line the small intestine. As the villi became damaged, it causes absorption problems, so that over time sufferers become malnourished no matter how much food they eat.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease vary, but adults often experience
- bone loss or osteoporosis
- bone or joint pain
- canker or oral mouth sores
- depression or anxiety
- infertility or miscarriages
- itchy rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
- irregular menstrual periods
- tingling numbness in the hands and feet
- unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
Additionally, although it is rare, some adults may experience abdominal problems such as as bloating, chronic diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, stomach pain, and weight loss.
Other Health Problems
Celiac sufferers are also more likely to suffer from certain other health problems, such as
- Addison’s disease (a disease where glands that produce critical hormones are damaged)
- Autoimmune liver disease
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type 1 diabetes
- Sjögren’s syndrome (a disease where tear and saliva glands are damaged and destroyed)
Similar to other disease, Celiac is difficult to diagnose and is often misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) because they share similar characteristics. Sometimes it is also confused with menstruation problems, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), intestinal infections, and chronic fatigue syndrome. However, doctors are become more aware of the disease and techniques are improving to help diagnose it. The following are often used to determine whether or not a person has Celiac Disease.
- Screening. Because Celiac is usually genetic, family members of sufferers are often screened for the disease.
- Tests for Proteins. People with Celiac who eat gluten diets show unusually high levels of proteins—anti-transglutaminase antibodies (ATA) or anti-endomysium antibodies (EMA)—in their blood and these react against the body’s own cells or tissues. A blood test is able to confirm if ATA or EMA are present.
- Test for Dermatitis Herpetiformis. Dermatitis Herpetiformis is a severely itchy and blistery skin rash primarily located on the knees, buttocks, or elbows and is diagnosed through blood tests and skin biopsies.
There is no cure for Celiac Disease, and the only way people can avoid progression of the disease is to undertake a gluten-free diet. Sufferers must also avoid eating foods that contain barley, einkorn, emmer, farina, kamut, rye, spelt, and wheat. So, most sufferers avoid cereal, grain, pasta, and other similiar processed foods. Instead they opt for fresh fruits and vegetables. They can also consume almond, amaranth, bean, buckwheat, potato, rice, quinoa, or soy flours, as well as corn, flax, legumes, millet, sago, and plain and wild rice.
To Learn More
If you’re interested in learning more, there are several websites that may help. They are
- American Celiac Disease Alliance. This site originated from a grass roots effort to improve the nation’s food labeling laws and when that was achieved they realized a permanent advocacy organization was needed and founded the site.
- Celiac Chicks. This is a new facebook site that just started. They want to “share tips about restaurants, products, events, recipes, bakeries, travel, etc…[ and help] anyone dealing with celiac disease, gluten-intolerance, gf/cf, autism, gluten-free casein-free, food allergies, etc.”
- Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF). The CDF promotes awareness and offers a supportive environment for Celiac sufferers, families, and health care professionals.