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What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a long-term autoimmune illness that primarily affects your digestive system. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye—their body reacts negatively. This reaction damages the small intestine’s lining, which can lead to difficulty in absorbing nutrients properly.
Causes of Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune ailment. This means your immune system, which normally fights harmful bacteria and viruses, mistakenly attacks your own body. When you have celiac disease, eating gluten triggers this attack on the lining of your small intestine.
Scientists aren’t entirely sure why some people develop celiac disease. However, it tends to run in families. If you have a family member with celiac disease, you have a higher chance of developing it.
How Common Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease affects people worldwide and can develop at any age. It’s more common in people who have Down syndrome, type 1 diabetes, thyroid diseases, Williams syndrome, Turner syndrome, and microscopic colitis. Also, women are slightly more likely to develop celiac disease than men.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
The symptoms of celiac disease differ significantly among individuals. Some people might experience severe symptoms, while others may have none at all, which makes it challenging to diagnose. Common symptoms include:
- Digestive problems like bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.
- Fatigue and anemia due to nutrient malabsorption.
- Weight loss and slowed growth in children.
- Skin rashes, known as dermatitis herpetiformis.
- Bone or joint pain.
- Mouth ulcers and dental enamel defects.
- Neurological symptoms such as headaches and cognitive impairment.
Diagnosing Celiac Disease
If you suspect you have celiac disease, it’s crucial to see a healthcare provider before starting a gluten-free diet. The diagnosis usually involves blood tests to look for specific antibodies. If these tests indicate celiac disease, your doctor may recommend an endoscopy to examine your small intestine and take a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of Celiac Disease
The main treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet. This means you must avoid all foods that contain wheat, barley, and rye. Actually, a tiny portion of gluten can trigger symptoms and cause intestinal damage.
It’s not just food you need to be careful with. Gluten can also be found in medications, vitamins, and even lip balms, so you need to check these as well.
Living with Celiac Disease
Living with celiac disease means making significant changes to your diet and lifestyle. But once you stop eating gluten, your small intestine can start to heal. Most people feel better within a few weeks, but it can take several months or even years for the intestine to fully heal.
With a gluten-free diet, you can lead a healthy, normal life. However, it’s important to follow the diet strictly to avoid long-term complications like osteoporosis, infertility, and neurological conditions.
Can Celiac Disease Be Prevented?
Currently, there is no known way to prevent celiac disease. However, early diagnosis and a gluten-free diet can help manage symptoms and prevent long-term complications.
Remember, if you think you might have celiac disease, it’s important to talk to a doctor before you start a gluten-free diet. The tests for celiac disease are most accurate when you’re still eating gluten.