Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which our immune system attacks the small intestine on detecting the presence of gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, triticale and rye. It can also be found in some grains which are processed in facilities where gluten-containing cereals are present.
People suffering from celiac disease are very sensitive to gluten and even a small trace in the body can trigger our immune system to attack the small intestine cells. The small intestine has villi which are small finger-like projections and their role is to assist in the absorption of nutrients. Therefore, damage to small intestinal cells can reduce or affect nutrient absorption resulting in deficiency disorders, malnutrition and other health complications.
If celiac disease is left untreated or overlooked then it may lead to health issues like-
- Nutritional deficiencies i.e. anaemia
- Infertility or miscarriage
- Lactose intolerance
- Intestinal cancers
- Altered gall bladder functioning
- Brain related disorders like seizures, dementia, migraine and neuropathy
The celiac disease might occur due to hereditary factors or other genetic disorders like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, lactose intolerance, Down syndrome and certain cancers.
Some of the common symptoms of celiac disease are-
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Liver disorders
- Mouth sores
- Joints pain
- Osteopenia and osteoporosis
- Loss of tooth enamel
- Depression and anxiety
- Delayed growth
- Irregular menses
In case of the appearance of any symptoms, it is advisable to get it checked by the doctor as soon as possible. If it runs in the families, then children who are older than three years and adults can get the confirmation of the presence of celiac disease via biopsy. For children less than three years, it is better to consult a paediatric gastroenterologist.
Celiac disease can be treated or managed by completely avoiding gluten-containing foods. Any food product like cookies, biscuits, cakes, buns, etc. containing wheat, rye, barley, durum wheat, semolina, bulgur, triticale, broken wheat should be omitted from the diet. Some soups, sauces, gravies, spreads and candies may also contain gluten.
A person with celiac disease can opt for gluten-free cereals like corn, rice, maize, millets, buckwheat, amaranth, arrowroot, oats, quinoa, tapioca and sorghum. Other options are fruits, vegetables, dairy products, nuts, lentils, pulses, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, jimikand and beans.
It is important to note that there can be some cosmetics, mouthwashes, lip balms, toothpaste and lipsticks which may contain gluten. Hence, it is very important to read the disclaimers and warnings carefully before choosing any packaged food or other product.
- Celiac Disease. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease
- NHS website. (2020, August 10). Coeliac disease. Nhs. Uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coeliac-disease/