What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition and digestive disorder. When gluten is eaten it causes an abnormal immune reaction. This reaction causes inflammation and damage to the small intestine.
Villi, which are small finger-like projections that line the small intestine, become damaged by gluten. Over time, the damaged villi can no longer absorb certain nutrients. If left untreated, you’re at a higher risk of nutrition deficiencies and immune-related disorders.
Who gets Celiac Disease?
Celiac is an inherited disease that affects children and adults. Which means, there’s an increased risk you will have celiac if someone in your immediate family has been diagnosed with it.
The disease can appear at any time and can be triggered by certain events such as surgery, infection, stress or pregnancy.
Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is a multi-symptom and multi-system disorder. Symptoms can vary and may not be gut related.
Common symptoms of the disease include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Abdominal distention
- Chronic diarrhea
- Chronic constipation
- Fatty stools
- Unexplained weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
Other symptoms of the disease:
- Bone or joint pain
- Skin rash
- Mouth sores
- Migraine headaches
- Osteopenia or osteoporosis
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
Treatment for Celiac Disease
The single, most effective treatment for celiac disease is to eliminate gluten. Symptoms usually resolve with a strict gluten-free diet. This elimination isn’t temporaty, it must be followed all the time. Going back to eating gluten causes the inflammation and damage to the small intestine to retrun along with all those unpleasant symptoms.
What is a Gluten-free Diet?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. But it’s also found in spelt, bulgur, semolina, graham flour, durum, triticale and farina.
But many unsuspecting foods contain gluten. Unless the label says “gluten-free”, you should avoid:
- Soy sauce
- Salad dressings
- Processed meats such as deli meat, hot dogs
- Prepared soups
And guess what? Gluten can also be hidden in medications and non-food products. Items such as lipstick, vitamins, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, toothpaste, and mouthwash may contain gluten.
Fortunately, a variety gluten-free products are available nowadays. But eating out can be challenging. It’s also important to watch for cross-contamination. This occurs when a gluten-free food comes in contact with food that contains gluten.
Following a gluten-free diet can be hard!
Working with a dietitian can help make sure you are avoiding gluten-containing foods while helping you maintain a well-balanced diet.
Don’t do it alone! Contact me to help you navigate a gluten-free diet.
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