What is Celiac disease and how does it affect us? Celiac disease is a state in which the lining within the walls of the small intestine are prevented from absorbing crucial food elements needed for the overall health of the body. The lining of the intestinal walls have sections containing villi, which assist in the body absorbing the nutrients as they pass through the area. As a result of the immune systems attack against the glutens found in the food that is eaten, the villi in those walls are damaged. Irrespective of how much food is consumed by the patient, the lining in those intestinal walls will not absorb the nutrients, leaving the patient to suffer the effects of malnutrition in spite of large volumes of food being eaten. It occurs when the patient consumes cereals such as barley, wheat, rye, and even oats which contain gluten although the exact cause of Celiac disease is generally not known.
In those that are afflicted with Celiac disease, women are more often to have it than man and it is most often found in Caucasian people and other people that have a European ancestry. Those that have a family with a history of the disease can develop it at any time in life, from birth to later years in adulthood. Those that have Celiac disease can also have;
- Type 1 diabetes,
- Lactose intolerance,
- Intestinal cancer,
- Addison’s disease,
- Thyroid disease,
- Down syndrome,
- Intestinal lymphoma, and
- Any of the various autoimmune disorders (Sjogren symdrome, systematic lupus erythematosus)
As the symptoms of Celiac disease vary from one person to another, and the effects of the disease can manifest itself at any stage in life, it is therefore more difficult to pin point with any immediacy. There are some symptoms that may suggest the presence of Celiac disease. Because the intestinal walls cannot absorb any of the important proteins, vitamins or minerals, the body over a gradual period of time will begin to show signs of malnutrition such as;
- Depression or anxiety disorders,
- Unexplainable height deficiency,
- Easily obtained contusions,
- Numbness and tingling sensations in feet or hands,
- Folic depreciation,
- Irregular menstral periods,
- Joint pain or muscle cramps,
- Ulcers in the mouth,
- Itchy or irritated skin,
- Nose bleeds
The above list of criteria and symptoms is not exhaustive, however a consultation with the patient’s physician may be able to narrow the focus to Celiac disease and possible other issues as well other than Celiac.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Celiac disease; however the avoidance of foods that contain gluten will facilitate a fast recovery. Any food or any beverage that contains oats, wheat, barley or rye is typical of items to avoid if healing of the damaged intestinal wall is to happen at all. Prior to being successfully diagnosed, it is recommended that the patient not indulge in a gluten free diet otherwise the process of diagnosing the issues surrounding the disease will be greatly hampered. Through a consultation with the patient’s physician and a registered dietician, a plan of recovery can be developed in which a careful diet is implemented using vitamins and alternative nutrients.