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Celiac disease


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Celiac disease is a digestive disorder wherein immune reaction in the small intestine is triggered by eating foods containing gluten. It gives rise to several symptoms and might damage the small intestine if not managed properly.


Causes of celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition; the immune cells of the intestine trigger the response on sensing gluten particles. This results in severe inflammation in the intestine; it becomes swollen and red. The ability of the villi (fine structures present on the surface of the intestine) to absorb nutrients declines.

A number of health issues might trigger celiac disease which include type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, etc. People with family history of celiac disease are more vulnerable.


Symptoms of celiac disease

  • Malabsorption of nutrients gives rise to several symptoms like diarrhea, constipation and fatty stools (steatrrhoea)
  • Bloating, stomach pain, flatulence, vomiting, acid reflux, heartburn
  • Weakness, tiredness, muscle cramps, weight loss
  • Edema in hands and legs
  • Low bone density - osteoporosis and osteomalacia
  • Anemia due to folate and iron deficiency
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis- development of skin rashes, blisters and itchy skin
  • Lack of nerve function and cognitive function

Children with celiac disease usually experience retarded growth and delayed puberty due to malabsorption of nutrients.


When to see a doctor?

You should get your child screened for celiac disease if it runs in your family. Otherwise, consult your doctor if the digestive symptoms persist for more than a week or so, you are experiencing too much weakness or if you stool is bulky, frothy with repelling odor.


Diagnosis of celiac disease

Your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical examination to evaluate the symptoms.

Diagnostic tests for celiac diseases are blood tests to measure the antibody load and quantitative analysis of vitamins and minerals in the body.

Patients might also need to undergo stool test.

Endoscopy of the small intestine will be performed followed by biopsy wherein a sample of tissue will be collected from the small intestine with the endoscope itself and observed under the microscope.


Treatment of celiac disease

The treatment involves giving the person a strict gluten free diet for the lifetime. Once gluten products are eliminated from the diet, the symptoms begin to disappear.

If the small intestine has been damaged seriously, then doctors would prescribe steroid medicines to accelerate the healing process.

Vitamin and mineral supplements will certainly be prescribed and one needs to have them on daily basis to make up for the malnutrition that he/she is suffering from.

Other treatment options depend on the symptoms that the patient is suffering from.


Diet for celiac disease

Elimination of gluten from diet

As per Mayo Clinic foods and food products that contain the following ingredients must not be consumed:

  • Barley
  • Wheat
  • Bulgur
  • Durum
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Malt
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt (a form of wheat)
  • Triticale

Thus, you cannot eat bread, pasta, noodles, cakes, sauces, tortillas, soups, gravies, beer, or any type of meals that contain the above mentioned substances.


Foods that you can eat

  • You can eat gluten free sources of cereals like corn, buckwheat, rice, quinoa and also opt for gluten free flour like arrowroot, corn flour, etc.
  • Have plenty of fruits and vegetables that are rich in iron, folates, zinc, magnesium, etc. and essentially vitamins.
  • Dairy products are important as they are rich sources of calcium
  • Eat poultry, fish and lean meat to suffice for your nutritional requirement

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: October 27, 2014

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