Celiac Disease is a severe autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine. According to the National Institutes of Health, 1% of Americans—or roughly 1 in 133 people—have celiac disease. On the other hand, Celiac disease affects only about 1% of the population worldwide. According to some studies, as much as 83 percent of Americans who have celiac disease are misdiagnosed or go uncaptured. This article explores Celiac disease and how to begin to live gluten-free.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune illness that affects people genetically predisposed and eats gluten, resulting in damage to the small intestine. When people with celiac disease consume gluten, their bodies launch an immunological response that targets the small intestine. These assaults wreak havoc on the villi, tiny fingerlike projections that line the small intestine and aid in nutrient absorption, resulting in harm to them. When the villi are destroyed, nutrients cannot be absorbed effectively into the body.

Celiac Disease Symptoms & Treatment

Celiac disease symptoms can vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. The most common symptoms are digestive problems like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Celiac disease can also cause fatigue, anemia, weight loss, and bone or joint pain. In children, Celiac disease can cause failure to thrive. The only way to manage Celiac Disease is to follow a gluten-free diet for life. 

A Gluten-free diet can be a difficult task, as gluten is found in many common foods like bread, pasta, cereal, and baked goods. Gluten is also often used as a food additive in soups, salad dressings, and sauces. Reading food labels is essential for people with Celiac Disease. Many grocery stores now carry gluten-free options of common foods. There are also many cookbooks available with gluten-free recipes.

What are Other Disorders That can Come From Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start consuming gluten, and left untreated, it can lead to additional severe health issues like:

  • Anemia (Iron deficiency)
  • Brain abnormalities, such as ADHD and headaches, poor muscle coordination, seizures, ataxia, dementia, neuropathy, myopathy, and multifocal leukoencephalopathy, are other neurological symptoms.
  • Heart disease
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Liver failure
  • Malfunction of the Gallbladder
  • Malnutrition
  • Mineral and vitamin deficiencies
  • Miscarriage and infertility
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and small intestine cancer
  • Osteoporosis or osteopenia
  • Pancreatic insufficiency

In 1999, researchers discovered that the later the age of diagnosis in people with celiac disease, the more likely they were to acquire another autoimmune disease.

If you think you may have Celiac Disease, talk to your doctor. There are blood tests and intestinal biopsies that can confirm the diagnosis. Once Celiac Disease is diagnosed, following a gluten-free diet is the only way to manage it. 

Is Celiac Disease Hereditary?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease passed down through families. If you have Celiac Disease, your children have a 50 percent chance of getting it. The odds of developing Celiac disease are 1 in 10 for those with a first-degree family member who has celiac disease (parent, child, sibling).

It has been estimated that 5-22% of people with celiac disease have an immediate family member (first-degree relative) who also has celiac disease. However, a retrospective study by the Mayo Clinic found that 44% of screened first-degree relatives had celiac disease.

How to Transition to a Gluten-Free Diet?

Transitioning to a gluten-free diet may seem daunting at first, but it can be relatively easy with careful planning. Here are some tips to help you make the transition.

1. Learn about Celiac Disease and the gluten-free diet. There are many resources available online or through your local library.

2. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian who can help you develop a plan for eating gluten-free.

3. Stock your kitchen with gluten-free foods and staples. Be sure to read food labels carefully, as gluten can be hidden in many products.

4. When eating out, ask about gluten-free options and how the food will be prepared to avoid cross-contamination.

5. Many cookbooks are available with gluten-free recipes, or you can adapt your favorite recipes to be gluten-free.

With careful planning, living gluten-free can be a relatively easy task. Many resources are available to help you transition to a gluten-free lifestyle.

Needham Gastroenterology Associates Can Help

Needham Gastroenterology Associate professionals are here to help you with your gut health needs. We encourage you to contact us and set up an appointment to help with diagnosis and treatment.