Could it be celiac disease?
By Kimberlee Ayers-Roberts
Everywhere we eat, we see gluten free options, but many don’t know why that is. Celiac disease and gluten allergies are the reason. Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disease triggered by consuming foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malt, and brewer’s yeast. When people with celiac disease consume foods containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the fingerlike villi of the small intestine. When the villi are damaged, the body is unable to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, which can lead to malnourishment.
It is estimated that one out of 100 people is affected by a form of celiac disease. Celiac can be difficult to diagnose. This disease affects people in different ways. Some people develop celiac disease as a child and some as an adult. The reason is still unknown. Some people with celiac disease have no symptoms but still test positive on a celiac blood test. Others can test negative on a blood test but positive on an intestinal biopsy. If left untreated, people with celiac disease are at risk for serious health issues like other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and even certain cancers.
Symptoms that can occur are:
● Weight loss
● Irritability and behavior issues
● Enamel defects on permanent teeth
● Delayed growth and development
● Short stature
● ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
Adult symptoms can differ from child symptoms. Adults are unlikely to experience digestive symptoms. Common symptoms for adults are:
● Unexplained iron deficiency
● Bone and joint pain
● Osteoporosis (bone loss)
● Liver and biliary tract disorders
● Depression or anxiety
● Peripheral neuropathy (tingling, numbness or pain in the hands and feet
● Seizures or migraines
● Missed menstrual periods
● Infertility or recurrent miscarriages
● Canker sores inside the mouth
● Dermatitis (itchy skin rash)
If you think this could be you, talk to your doctor about getting tested for celiac disease. Your doctor will order a series of blood tests to measure your body’s response to gluten. You must continue eating gluten for this test to work. To confirm a celiac disease diagnosis, your doctor may recommend an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. Some doctors may recommend genetic testing because this is a genetic autoimmune disease.
Once you are diagnosed with celiac, it is important to begin a 100% gluten free diet, since there are no pills or therapies available. A gluten free diet excludes all products containing wheat, barley, rye, malt, and brewer’s yeast. Those who are on a gluten free diet can still enjoy a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, beans, and most dairy products. Such ingredients are naturally gluten free. However, it is important to prepare them properly for them to remain gluten free.
Sticking to a gluten free diet can be tough. But with the right education and an optimistic approach, you and your family can live a full and healthy gluten free life.
Please continue to watch for my articles with updated information, great places to shop for gluten free products, and delicious recipes.