Wheat has been a grain in the human diet for approximately 8,000 years. Wheat has been found in burial pits of settlements that were alive and well that long ago, along with loaves of Egyptian bread from 5,000 years ago. Celiac disease, a true gluten intolerance, affects around one percent of the population and is an autoimmune reaction that damages the intestines. Over two and one-half of the people in the United States have undiagnosed gluten intolerance and if left untreated can suffer serious health risks. This article will help you understand Celiac disease, how it is diagnosed, and tips to manage it.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is actually an autoimmune disease that is triggered by eating gluten. This is the protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. While other grains contain gluten, these are the most likely to cause the immune system to react. The reaction causes inflammation in the lining of the intestine and causes absorption issues for calcium, iron, folate, and fat.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
Anyone can have Celiac disease at any age. The symptoms are different for children, teens, and adults. Here are the symptoms listed by age group:
Problems with Growth
Failure to Thrive (gain weight)
Diarrhea (some blood in stools)
Teens of Celiac Disease
An important note is that teens usually experience the onset of this disease after a stressful event or trigger such as illness, injury, traumatic life event, or leaving home for school. Symptoms for teens include:
Problems with Growth
Late onset of Puberty
Adults of Celiac Disease
Adults do not have severe problems with the digestive tract like children do. Only one-third of adults experience severe diarrhea. Here are some common symptoms for adults:
Causes of Celiac Disease
It is not exactly known what causes Celiac disease. When the disease is triggered by things like; stress, a virus, pregnancy, or other trauma the body begins to respond to gluten and attacks the lining of the intestines. It causes damage to the villi that absorb nutrients.
It appears people who have the disease may have a genetic mutation that may increase the chances of getting Celiac.
Risk Factors for Celiac Disease
Celiac disease tends to show up in people that carry the following risk factors, although you don’t have to have one of them to develop the condition:
Family history of Celiac disease
Autoimmune thyroid disease
Type 1 Diabetes
Diagnosing Celiac Disease
There are blood tests that doctors can run to check for Celiac disease. They test for antibodies in the blood to gluten. These include:
tTG-IgA -Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies. This test comes back positive for Celiac in around 98 percent of people with the condition that have been eating gluten. It also comes back negative for Celiac in around 95 percent of people that do not have the condition. The only drawback with this test is there is a high chance for false positive results in those who suffer from other autoimmune disorders, but don’t have Celiac.
IgA Endomysial Antibody (EMA). This test is not as sensitive as the tTG-IgA test and can be very expensive. Around 5 to 10 percent of celiac patients come back negative on this test.
Total Serum IgA. Certain individuals can have genetically low levels of IgA (antibody) in the blood. Since the above-mentioned tests rely on elevated levels of IgA, these individuals can have false negative results. This test will show if the IgA levels are low.
DGP – Deaminated Gliadin Peptide. If you do come back IgA deficient, the doctor can use this test to check for Celiac disease.
If any of the above tests are positive, your doctor may suspect Celiac Disease. In order to confirm the diagnosis, an endoscopic biopsy is performed.
Endoscopic Biopsy. This test needs to be done after you have been eating a full gluten diet for up to three months. The doctor will pass a scope through your mouth while you are sedated. This scope has a camera at the end that will allow your physician to examine your small intestine and take a sample of it for further analysis.
Treatment for Celiac Disease
Celiac disease has no known cure at this time. Treatment involves going on a gluten-free diet. While it may be possible to eat small amounts of gluten, others cannot ingest any. The diet includes:
No wheat, rye or barley. Do not eat any foods containing these grains. This includes cereals, pasta, cakes, cookies, pies, crackers, and gravy thickened with wheat flour.
No oats. Some people can eat oats, but the gluten in oats may upset others.
No foods containing gluten as an ingredient. This includes canned and processed foods, ice cream, candy bars, salad dressing, instant coffee, yogurt, and condiments.
Use caution with medications. Gluten may be used as a binder in many supplements and tablets.
No grain alcohol. Wine is okay, but beer, some whiskey, and other alcohol made from grains contain gluten.
Stay away from lactose. During the first few months of treatment, some people experience lactose intolerance. This usually goes away and dairy can be reintroduced.
Research ingredients. Learn to read your food labels and know what ingredients mean. Most products have a gluten warning on them now, but some ingredients may be gluten under another name. Make sure boxed and prepared foods are truly “gluten-free.”
You may need supplements. Many people with absorption issues may need to supplement missing nutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, iron, folate, and vitamin D.
Lifestyle Changes for Celiac Disease
Eat plenty of healthy foods that are allowed. Eat enough whole grains that are gluten free and make sure you include enough fruits, calcium containing vegetables (leafy greens), and protein in your diet.
Use caution when eating out. If you attend gatherings or eat at a restaurant, you will need to inquire about what is in the food you are eating. You may want to call ahead and let them know you are on a gluten free diet.
Inquire about gluten free baking products. Many natural food suppliers are coming up with easy to use gluten free flours. You can save expense by learning to bake your own gluten free products.
Alternative Medicine and Home Remedies for Celiac Disease
In addition to a gluten free diet, you can try the following remedies to help your intestines heal:
Paprika – Natural anti-inflammatory
Aloe Vera – Natural anti-inflammatory
Probiotics – Replenishes good bacteria that can help intestinal healing
At this time, there is no prevention for celiac disease.
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