Lately I have heard a lot about celiac disease but to be honest, until about a year ago, I didn’t even know what it was or if I should be worried about it. I remember googling “what is celiac disease?” and since then have gotten quite a few messages asking if I could do a post on it to raise awareness. Well yes, of course, I’d love to!
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is a digestive and autoimmune disorder that results in damage to the lining of the small intestine when someone eats foods with gluten. When the intestine is damaged, it is hard for the body to absorb nutrients, especially fat, calcium, folate and iron – which are all essential nutrients to a healthy body. Celiac disease occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages (which means you’re genetics make it more likely to get the disease).
Okay, So…What is gluten?
Those with Celiac Disease will most likely follow a gluten free diet. (See my post about What is a gluten free diet). Gluten is a form of protein found in wheat based foods that consist of grains, including barley and rye. Gluten is used in foods to maintain their shape and act as a glue to hold foods together.
What are Celiac Disease Symptoms?
Common celiac disease symptoms may include:
- Pain and discomfort in the digestive tract (gas, & pale stools)
- Chronic constipation (bloating & pain)
- Weight loss
- Growth Problems & Failure to thrive (in children)
- Vitamin Deficiencies (especially iron – called anemia)
- A severe skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis
- Musculoskeletal problems (muscle cramps, joint and bone pain)
- Tingling sensation in the legs (caused by nerve damage and low calcium)
- Aphthous ulcers (sores in the mouth)
- Missed menstrual periods
How to find out if you have celiac disease
If you suspect that you may have celiac disease based on the above symptoms, I’d highly suggest you visiting your primary care doctor. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and probably a blood test to detect iron levels. If necessary, a stool sample may be requested to detect fat levels in the stool.
If your doctor believes that you indeed have celiac diseaes, he or she will more than likely request to take a biopsy from your small intestine to check for damage to the villi. The entire biopsy shouldn’t be feared. It’s done through a endoscope through your mouth which allows them to take a small sample from your small intestine to send to a lab to examine closer.
Don’t ignore celiac disease
A biopsy and avoiding gluten may sound scary and life changing but it’s a much safer option than ignoring it all together.
If you decide to just fight through the pain and discomfort, it could lead to bigger problems like anemia, infertility, other autoimmune disease and cancer of the intestine (although that’s VERY rare).
I hope this article helped answer the question of “what is celiac disease?” and I hope you are now educated enough to know the symptoms and what to do if you think you may have it.
I’m curious, do any of my readers have to follow a gluten free diet due to celiac disease? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!