What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.
When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.
Celiac disease is hereditary, meaning that it runs in families. People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease.
Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods or medicines that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems. (https://www.celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/)
10 facts about celiac disease:
1. Digestive symptoms are not the only symptoms
Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose because it affects people differently. The most common symptoms include:
- Digestive problems (abdominal bloating, pain, gas, diarrhea, pale stools and weight loss)
- A skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
- Iron deficiency anemia (low blood count)
- Musculoskeletal problems (muscle cramps, joint and bone pain)
- Growth problems and failure to thrive(in children)
- Tingling sensation in the legs (caused by nerve damage and low calcium)
- Aphthous ulcers (sores in the mouth)
- Missed menstrual periods
2. More people have celiac disease than Crohn’s disease, colitis and cystic fibrosis combined
An estimated 3 million people in the U.S. are affected by celiac disease.
3. Celiac disease is hereditary
People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease.
4. Certain people are at higher risk of developing celiac. These include people with:
- Down Syndrome
- Type I Diabetes
- IgA deficiency
- Autoimmune thyroiditis
- Williams Syndrome
- Turners Syndrome
5. Celiac disease is diagnosed in two stages.
First, your doctor will perform a blood test. If this test is positive, it is necessary to then perform an intestinal biopsy.
6. Celiac disease is a life-long issue. There is no cure.
The only treatment for celiac is avoidance of foods containing gluten.
7. 83% of Americans with celiac disease are undiagnosed
With 2½ million people in the U.S. undiagnosed for celiac disease, there is a critical need to raise awareness and funds for diagnosis, treatment, and research for a cure.
8. The majority of patients respond very well to a strict gluten free diet.
Parents have noticed increase energy and a better sense of well-being with their children adhere to the diet.
9. Consuming the smallest amount of gluten can cause serious problems for people with celiac.
This includes some vitamin and nutritional deficiencies.
10. If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, it is important to learn what foods are ok and which aren’t.
Your doctor can teach you which foods contain gluten. Remember, it is important to read labels and order wisely when you are out to dinner.
To learn more about celiac disease
There are several websites and support groups which are available to help you navigate through the lifestyle changes required for people with celiac disease. Here are some suggestions:
- Celiac Disease Foundation
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- Celiac Support Association