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Celiac Disease (CD) appears to be increasing in prevalence across the world. However, many people are still not aware of it and may still be struggling with unexplained symptoms. Could you be one of them? Read on to find out more about the symptoms, causes and treatment of celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune condition where the consumption of gluten triggers the body’s immune system to attack its tissues in the small intestine. It is not an allergy or food intolerance. If a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, the lining of the small intestine may become damaged and unable to absorb nutrients, eventually leading to malnutrition, anemia and other symptoms associated with celiac disease.
Symptoms of celiac disease can be very non-specific and overlap with many other gastric conditions or mimic food intolerance, therefore celiac disease often goes undiagnosed.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition where the body’s defence against infection mistakes gluten as a threat to the body and attacks healthy tissue of the small intestine. It is not entirely clear what causes the immune system to act this way, however, a combination of genetics (HLA-DQ2, HLA-DQ8, or both) and the environment appear to play an important part in the onset of celiac disease.
Gluten is a general name for the protein found in wheat, barley, spelt and rye. Gluten is found in any food that contains these dietary proteins including:
Celiac disease testing is not routinely recommended unless patients experience symptoms or are at an increased risk of developing them.
While being tested for celiac disease, you should not remove gluten from your diet until all tests are completed or until recommended by your gastroenterologist, to ensure the test for celiac disease is accurate.
If the diagnosis of celiac disease was confirmed, other tests may be required to assess the impact on other systems.
Once the diagnosis of celiac disease is confirmed, all sources of gluten must be stopped. This can help to prevent damage to the lining of the intestine and alleviate the associated symptoms. The good news is that many foods are naturally gluten-free.
Gluten is not essential in our diet, and it can be replaced by other foods, there are also gluten-free versions of food available in supermarkets. Many foods such as meat, vegetables, potatoes and rice are naturally free from gluten so these can still be included in the new diet. A dietician will be able to offer help in adjusting a new diet without gluten, ensuring the new diet is balanced and contains all the nutrients required.
Common foods that contain gluten include:
It is important to always check the food labels before you buy any food. Many foods, especially processed foods, include additives which contain gluten.
Patients with celiac disease often have a weaker spleen function, making them more vulnerable to infection. It is recommended for those with celiac disease to have a pneumococcal vaccine with a booster every 5 years and an annual flu jab on an individual basis.
Celiac disease itself is an autoimmune disease, people with celiac disease have a genetic predisposition to other autoimmune conditions, such as:
Other conditions linked to the celiac disease include:
Symptoms of celiac disease vary between individuals, common symptoms include chronic diarrhoea, faltering growth or failure to thrive in children, abdominal bloating, recurrent abdominal pain, fatigue, and sudden or unexpected weight loss.
Other than the medical history and clinical assessment, doctors will use blood tests and other tests to help find out if you have celiac disease. Blood tests look for certain antibodies such as tissue transglutaminase (TTG) antibodies (IgA and IgG), endomysial antibodies (IgA) and anti-gliadin antibodies (IgA and IgG). A biopsy of the intestine can also be used to confirm the diagnosis of celiac disease.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, spelt and rye. Common foods that contain gluten include cakes, pastries, pasta, biscuits, bread, cereals, pies and some ready meals. It is important to always check the food labels before you buy any food, as many processed foods include additives which also contain gluten.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
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