Celiac disease started the recent trend of gluten-free everything. It is classified as a genetic autoimmune disorder where the body cannot process gluten and gluten can actually cause a lot of damage to the small intestine. In estimates by the Celiac Disease Foundation, say that about 1 in 100 people world-wide suffers from Celiac disease. There are many people who chose to have a gluten-free diet, but there are also some who require it.
What happens when someone with Celiac Disease eats gluten?
The first thing that happens is the body’s immune system responds and starts attacking the small intestine. Villi, small finger shaped projections, line the inside of the small intestine which absorb nutrients. The villi are damaged during these immune responses and eventually they cannot absorb nutrients properly.
The only real treatment for Celiac disease is to be on a gluten-free diet. That means avoiding foods that contain most grains like wheat, barley, and rye as well as foods that contain those ingredients that you may not suspect like beer, soups, and breads.
- Severe skin rash
- Missed menstrual periods
- Muscle cramps
- Digestive issues
- Growth problems and failure to thrive in children
- Sores in the mouth
- Joint and bone pain
- Tingling and slight numbness in the legs
Long term prognosis:
Since Celiac disease can result in malnourishment, there are many conditions that can develop later on if Celiac Disease is not managed well. Some of the risks are:
- Neurological manifestations like seizures, dementia, migraines, and more
- Ataxia – The loss of control of voluntary bodily movements
- Vitamin/mineral deficiencies
- Osteoporosis or osteopenia
- Birth defects
- Liver disease
- Rarely intestinal cancer
There could be other autoimmune disorders too
- Type 1 diabetes
- Down’s Syndrome
- Thyroid Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Sjögren’s syndrome
How to manage Celiac Disease:
Besides a strict adherence to the gluten-free diet, which is very strict, even a small crumb from a piece of gluten-riddled toast is enough to set off an immune response. Traditionally doctors will not prescribe any kind of medication unless it is to manage or treat some of the symptom disorders like dermatitis herpetiformis. It is far more likely that your doctor will recommend supplements to make up for the reduced nutrient absorption. Because the lack of these vitamins and minerals can cause more complications, it is important to remember to take the supplements as recommended not to skip any doses. Setting alarms or a med reminder app to help you remember what and how much you need to take when you need to take it makes it much easier to manage than trying to carry around all those bottles.