In Health, Syndromes & Disorders

The How and What of Celiac Disease

There are tons of diseases that affect millions of people across the globe and knowing about them is the best way to learn and figure out if you or someone you know may have them. Celiac disease is one such disease that affects more people than you might ever imagine. It is important that in order to decide if someone you know has the disease, that you first know a bit about the basics.

What Is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is the proper name for a gluten sensitivity. When it comes to celiac disease, those that suffer have a small intestine that is hypersensitive to gluten which leads to difficulty digesting and utilizing foods that contain gluten or gluten byproducts. This makes it incredibly difficult for those that suffer from this sensitivity to eat normally. In most cases, those that have celiac disease must follow special diets that help them to avoid gluten all together or take it in very low amounts.

Celiac disease is essentially an autoimmune disorder that often occurs in certain individuals that are genetically predisposed. Often, exposure to gluten causes damage to the small intestine with each instance of consuming gluten making it a very serious illness. Though it may seem like celiac disease is nothing more than a slight food allergy, it can cause serious damage to the intestines. There are over 2 million people in the United States alone that have been diagnosed with celiac disease and even more that have gone undiagnosed and may suffer from permanent damage if it continues to go untreated.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

There are tons of different symptoms that can help you identify celiac disease. This is a complicated disease to diagnose because it affects each individual differently. In most cases however you can expect to see symptoms similar to these in children, abdominal bloating and pain, diarrhea, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dental enamel defects, vomiting, constipation, weight loss, behavioral issues, delayed growth, and other issues. Though these are some common issues that might pop up, they are not the be all end all. Though your child may exhibit some of these issues, they may not exhibit all of the issues so it is important to take time to look and see what symptoms are actually being displayed before jumping to conclusions.

In adults the symptoms are a bit different. In adults the symptoms are likely to be unexplained iron deficiency, itchy rash or dermatitis, infertility or frequent miscarriage, missed periods in women, seizures, arthritis, osteoporosis, bone and joint pain, fatigue, and migraines. Though there are any number of other symptoms that may pop up, these are the most common and are often the starting point when these symptoms do pop up. If you feel like you may suffer from celiac disease it is important that you seek medical intervention before the symptoms end up causing too much issue.

Celiac Disease Test

There are tests that can help to diagnose this disease. The first step to this test is of course screening. Screening can help get you on the track to recovery and eventual good health. Those that should be screened are adults and children that are over the age of three that exhibit signs of the disease. The screening is quite simple, first off, blood is often taken to screen for antibodies. There is also a tTG-IgA test that will help to screen for celiac disease. If the results of these tests suggest celiac disease, you doctor may suggest a biopsy of your small intestine to see if there is any damage that may indicate the disease. They may also suggest a colonoscopy or other minimally invasive procedure that will help to point to damage that may have been caused by celiac disease. If you are already on a gluten free diet to help manage your symptoms but you have not been diagnosed, it is necessary to go on a gluten challenge of sorts and eat gluten to see if it causes a flare up. If you are suffering from celiac disease symptoms take the time to talk to a doctor.

The next step of any screening is to go through the diagnosis process. Diagnosis is always done with a biopsy as the only sure fire way to prove that celiac disease is present. Though a biopsy is going to be somewhat conclusive, it is necessary to then be exposed to gluten and deprived of it and see how the symptoms improve or get worse. After you have been screened, you may still not be diagnosed with celiac disease. There are other options that are similar to the disease that may also be troubling you. You can also be sensitive to gluten which means that you will be sensitive but will still test negative to the celiac disease test. Paying attention to the signs of celiac disease is the best way to tell if you need to be screened.

Celiac Disease Diet

With celiac disease in children it may be a bit harder to create a diet that is going to work for them. There are ways however. It is always helpful for those that suffer from celiac disease to think about options when it comes to diet change. There are now more foods than ever that are processed and premade that are still tasty and that are gluten free or at the very least have less gluten than other options. While it would be best to avoid gluten all together and cook all your own food, it would be incredibly hard for those with a gluten allergy or sensitivity to cook all their own food.

As a result there are plenty of companies that are now making foods that are gluten free. There is gluten in more foods than you can imagine. Though gluten is of course the most difficult for those with gluten sensitivities to handle, it can be also very dangerous for those with diabetes. Gluten does end up becoming sugar in the body when it is metabolized. Though those with a gluten sensitivity can often not process it to the point that it becomes sugar, those that can may have issues.

Some common foods that contain gluten naturally are white flour, triticale, kamut, wheat germ, wheat bran, whole wheat flour, graham flour, semolina, spelt, durum wheat, and more. These foods are often naturally occurring grains that metabolize into sugar when the body begins to process. Some common foods that are made with wheat are pastas, breads, couscous, cakes, muffins, cookies, cereal, gravy, dressings, sauces, and more. In most cases, people eat more gluten than they realize every day in their normal diet.

Gluten Substitutes

There are some substitutes that people with celiac disease can use to help cook their own food. Though symptoms of celiac disease in women are often more severe, they are also present in men. There are plenty of substitutes that those with a gluten sensitivity can use. Rice flour and rice flour products are some of the best subs for those with issues. Rice flour is like wheat flour save for the fact that it does not have gluten. Tapioca flour is another good substitute. When in doubt, it is always possible to buy premade products that are gluten free. You can also buy gluten free baking substitutes that have been formulated to simulate flour. Coconut flour, flax seed, certain nuts, bananas, and other fruits are also great for those with a gluten sensitivity. Overall, it is nearly impossible to avoid gluten all together so there are ways that doctors have created to help sufferers deal with and manage the symptoms of celiac disease.

One common drug that is used to help treat celiac disease is prednisone; this helps to control the allergic reaction and helps the body process. Medrol, cortisone, and veripred are all used to help treat the symptoms after they have already manifested. In most cases, doctors will not prescribe these medications as the first line of treatment with celiac disease. Rather, most doctors will help the patient figure out a healthy meal plan and watch for improvement to see if celiac disease is really what is causing the issues. In most cases, these medications are used in only very serious cases where the damage to the small intestine is already done and as a result is very hard to manage.

If you or someone you know is suffering from celiac disease it is important that you take the time to talk to a doctor and see what you can do. If you feel that you can manage your symptoms on your own without a doctor start at first to limit and cut out gluten from your diet to see if you can manage the symptoms. It is easier than you might imagine to keep celiac disease in check if you pay close attention to the symptoms and take the time to really watch what you eat and manage your issues. Celiac disease does not have to run your life and taking the time to really see the issues is the best way to live with this disease.

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