What is Celiac Disease?

Also known as Nontropical Sprue or Gluten Enteropathy, Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder widely prevalent in Europe, particularly in countries like Italy, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland. In Ireland, for example, one out of 300 people is inflicted with this disease. In Finland, it occurs in one out of 100 people. Celiac disease isn’t only found in Europe but also in North America, although rates of occurrence is low at one out of 3000 people.

Celiac Disease is a small intestine disorder that occurs due to an immunological or allergic reaction in the organ’s inner lining after the body takes in gluten from wheat, barley or rye. This allergic reaction produces an inflammation that damages the small intestine’s inner linings. When this happens, the absorption of nutrients from food is inhibited. This can then lead to nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, and other health problems.

The immunological reaction to gluten is said to be genetic. This means that if you have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or children) suffering from this disease, there is a big chance that you will also acquire it. Approximately, 30 percent of fraternal twins and 70 percent of identical twins both have Celiac Disease.

Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of celiac disease can begin in as early as infancy or childhood. But in some cases, they don’t appear until adulthood. Some people just suddenly become extremely ill after consuming very low amounts of gluten.

Signs and symptoms would also occur not directly because of the disease but because of malabsorption of nutrients and nutritional deficiencies. Malabsorption symptoms would include diarrhea, foul smelling gas, increased amount of fat in the feces, and abdominal bloating. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, meanwhile would cause weight loss, anemia, fluid retention, bruising, osteoporosis, peripheral neuropathy, muscular weakness, and infertility.

How Is This Diagnosed?
Sadly, it’s quite hard to diagnose since no single test can provide accurate diagnosis of celiac disease. Doctors do a combination of blood tests as well as a biopsy of the small intestine. The biopsy is done to see if there is atrophied villi, which is common in people with celiac disease.

How Can One Cope With Celiac Disease?
The most effective treatment for this disease is the lifelong gluten-free diet, which completely bans wheat, barley and rye. Oats are also not allowed even though this food doesn’t contain as much gluten as those other grain products mentioned. It is vital to practice specialized guidelines in food shopping, food preparation, and dining out. Even for those patients who do not seem to have violent reactions after gluten consumption should follow this strict diet to avoid the autoimmune responses of the body that can destroy the intestine.

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