Celiac disease is a digestive problem that hurts the small intestine. It stops the body from taking in nutrients from food. A person may have celiac disease if he or she is sensitive to gluten. Gluten is a kind of protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes in small amounts in mixed oats.
When one has celiac disease and eat foods with gluten, the body has a reaction that is not normal. Over time, this reaction damages the small intestine’s lining and prevents it from absorbing some nutrients (malabsorption). The intestinal damage often causes diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and anemia, and can lead to serious complications.
In children, malabsorption can affect growth and development, besides causing the symptoms seen in adults. There’s no cure for celiac disease, but for most people, following a strict gluten-free diet can help manage symptoms and promote intestinal healing.
What causes celiac disease?
The precise cause is not known. Eating foods with gluten, infant-feeding practices, gastrointestinal infections and gut bacteria can contribute to celiac disease. Sometimes celiac disease becomes active after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection or severe emotional stress.
Who is at risk celiac for disease?
Celiac disease tends to be more common in people who have:
• A family member with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis
• Type 1 diabetes
• Down syndrome or Turner syndrome
• Autoimmune thyroid disease
• Microscopic colitis (lymphocytic or collagenous colitis)
• Addison’s disease
What are the symptoms of celiac disease?
The signs and symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly and differ in children and adults. Digestive signs and symptoms for adults include:
• Weight loss
• Bloating and gas
• Abdominal pain
• Nausea and vomiting
Digestive symptoms are more common in infants and children. Here are the most common symptoms found in children:
• abdominal bloating and pain
• chronic diarrhea
• pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
• iron-deficiency anemia
• weight loss
• irritability and behavioral issues
• dental enamel defects of the permanent teeth
• delayed growth and puberty
• short stature
How is celiac disease treated?
The only way to treat celiac disease is to permanently remove gluten from diet. Symptoms can improve within days of removing gluten from diet. However, one should not stop eating gluten until a diagnosis is made. Removing gluten prematurely may interfere with test results and lead to an inaccurate diagnosis.
1. Verneda L, November 2017. Celiac disease: more than gluten intolerance. Available at https://healthline.com
2. Mayo Clinic . Celiac disease. Available at https://mayoclinic.org
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