We all live to eat and love to eat. But not everyone is as lucky as us to relish every single dish that comes their way. In fact, more than 1% Americans live with a serious health condition that restricts them from eating their favorite foods – pizzas, hamburgers, breads, cakes, pastas and more. In fact, in these people, even the smallest exposure to a ‘component’ found in these food products leads to serious autoimmune reactions with severe health consequences.
That’s what is a Celiac Disease – a serious digestive disorder that’s caused by an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. Also known as celiac sprue or gluten intolerance, celiac disease affects more than 3 million Americans and is characterized by body’s inability to digest or break down gluten – a protein found in foods made with wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. In fact, even accidental consumption of foods that contain gluten or ones that are made in processing plants that handle these grains can lead to the creation of toxins that could lead to permanent intestinal damage, along with other serious health complications.
What Causes Celiac Disease?
While there’s no definite cause of celiac disease, researchers believe that it’s a disease that runs in families and usually gets passed on to generations through genes. However, certain medical conditions, stress, viral infections and surgeries can also trigger the disease. So can pregnancy and emotional trauma.
Celiac disease is also common in people suffering from other health conditions, like
- Type 1 diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Lactose intolerance
- Down syndrome
- Intestinal cancer
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Though celiac disease mostly involves intestine and the digestive system, it often affects various other parts of the body too. The symptoms of celiac disease in children and adult are also different.
Celiac Disease Symptoms in Children
Children with celiac disease often exhibit:
- Persistent weight loss
- Weakness and irritability
- Abdominal cramps and bloating
- Persistent diarrhea or constipation
- Pale, foul-smelling stools
- Delayed onset of puberty
Celiac Disease Symptoms in Adults
Adults with celiac disease may experience:
- Iron deficiency or anemia
- Joint pains or stiffness
- Skin disorders
- Itchy skin with bumps and blisters
- Pale sores inside the mouth
- Tooth discoloration
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Infertility and miscarriage
People with celiac disease are two times at a greater risk of developing coronary artery disease, and four times more prone to developing small bowel cancers. If left untreated or undiagnosed, celiac disease can lead to the development of other autoimmune disorders too. These include Type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), dermatitis herpetiformis, osteoporosis, epilepsy, migraines, short stature, heart disease and intestinal cancers.
Diagnosing the Disease
The “gold standard” for diagnosing celiac disease is through upper endoscopy. During this procedure, your physician will take microscopic pieces of tissue from the small intestine to either confirm or rule out the tissue changes that are the characteristics of celiac disease.
Alternatively, your doctor may also advise several blood tests to detect the levels of antiendomysium (EMA) and anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTGA) antibodies, which are usually high in people suffering from celiac disease. The blood tests usually include:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Liver function tests
- Cholesterol test
- Alkaline phosphatase level test
- Serum albumin test
Living with Celiac Disease: What to Eat & What to Avoid?
Unfortunately, at present, there’s no treatment for celiac disease. The only way to restore your health and reclaim your life is by making a quick transition to a gluten-free diet. To ensure that your diet is gluten-free, you need to strictly avoid gluten-containing foods like:
- Baking mixes
- Sauces, spices, and condiments
- Salad dressings
- Some medications and vitamin supplements
However, you can happily consume gluten-free flours, grains and starches like buckwheat, corn, amaranth, cornmeal, flour made from rice, soy, corn, potatoes, or beans, pure corn tortillas, quinoa, rice, and tapioca. You can also enjoy most of the fruits, vegetables, most dairy products, fresh meat, fish, poultry, wine, ciders, and spirits.
Seeking Expert Help is the Best Way Forward
While the transition from gluten to gluten-free diet looks overwhelming and intimidating at first, with expert help and support, managing and living a gluten-free life becomes a lot easier. So, get in touch with an expert dietician who can evaluate your condition and help you create a customized gluten-free diet plan to help you stay healthy and disease-free.
At EPIC Health, we offer comprehensive Nutrition & Diet Management Programs to guide you to take control of your health. Our expert physicians, dieticians, and healthcare professionals work with you to help you understand your disease, identify triggers, and enable you to better manage your condition through personalized diet and medications. Acting as your true support system, our dieticians make sure to expertly answer all your questions – what to eat, when to eat and how to eat – to help you live your life at the fullest – whether you are at home, in office, with friends, or on the go!
So, if you think you or your loved ones are constantly being troubled by the food they eat, it could be more just a usual tummy ache. It could be Gluten Intolerance.