Celiac Disease Treatment
Gluten refers to a group of proteins that are typically found in wheat, rye, and barley, among other grains. For most people, gluten isn’t bothersome. However, some are gluten sensitive, which means they may feel uncomfortable after eating gluten. For others, there is complete gluten intolerance, which is known as celiac disease. People with celiac disease can’t consume any gluten at all. Read on to learn more about celiac disease, celiac disease treatment, and foods and products to avoid if you have celiac.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where a patient’s immune system abnormally responds to the ingestion of gluten. This immune response destroys villi, which are small protrusions within the small intestine. When this happens continually, it becomes difficult for the intestine to heal, and the body has trouble absorbing nutrients. If there is no celiac disease treatment, this can lead to more serious conditions, such as vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition, and anemia, among others. If autoimmune disorders are not treated, they will continue to attack the body.
It’s estimated that 1 in 100 people worldwide is affected by celiac disease. However, up to 2.5 million people in the United States may have celiac disease and not know it, as the symptoms range from mild to severe. Because of this, it’s very important to know the symptoms of celiac disease.
What Are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
Symptoms of celiac disease can vary, as cases can be mild or severe. Also, celiac presents differently in children than in adults, and children may experience more digestive distress than adults. In adults, they may often experience a skin rash or dermatitis herpetiformis, which is a skin disease directly associated with celiac.
Symptoms of celiac disease in children may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Pale and/or foul-smelling stool
In adults, symptoms present differently. Adults with celiac disease may experience some of the symptoms above, but as an autoimmune condition, in adults celiac disease affects other parts of the body. Symptoms include:
- Joint pain or stiffness
- Skin disorders, such as those mentioned
- Weak or brittle bones
- Unexplained fatigue
- Sores in the mouth
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Infertility or miscarriage
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- Tooth discoloration
While symptoms vary between children and adults, there can be other factors that affect symptoms, such as how long the patient has been consuming gluten, how badly the intestinal lining is damaged, and how long someone was breastfed as an infant.
Some with celiac disease have no symptoms at all; however, the damage is still occurring to their small intestine and they still require treatment for celiac, provided it is diagnosed.
If you or your child experience any of the symptoms above, you should consult a gastroenterologist. Not only does celiac disease lead to malnutrition and other problems, but some with celiac disease have refractory celiac disease, which is much more serious and is resistant to celiac disease treatment.
When Do I Need Medical Attention?
You should seek medical attention if you experience any of the symptoms above or otherwise suspect you have celiac disease. There are several ways that your physician can diagnose celiac disease.
First, your gastroenterologist will ask for your complete medical information, as family history and medical history can assist in the diagnosis. Your doctor will also take blood tests to look for antibodies. If it looks like a diagnosis of celiac disease is likely, your gastroenterologist may perform an endoscopy.
During the procedure, you will be placed under light anesthesia, and a long, thin tube is inserted into the throat. It has a small camera attached to the end, which can offer images of the small intestinal lining. Using this procedure, your physician can check for damage to the intestine and can also take a small tissue biopsy to be evaluated.
Celiac disease can sometimes be tough to diagnose because it shares symptoms with other GI disorders, such as lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. This is why your provider may perform an endoscopy to ensure the diagnosis.
Celiac Disease Treatment
There is only one celiac disease treatment and that is to avoid all foods that contain gluten. However, sometimes that can be difficult, because gluten is hidden in many products, even cosmetics. Beyond avoiding wheat, barley, and rye products, always read product labels and avoid these foods and products:
- Oats (often processed with other grains)
- Salad dressing
- Condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, and soy sauce
- Ice cream
- Canned soup
- Processed meats
- Postage stamps
- Communion wafers
Some other products may or may not contain gluten, such as vitamins, prescription medications, toothpaste, and cosmetics.
Foods that are generally safe to eat include:
- Grains, such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth
- Fruits and vegetables
- Meats and fish
- Cereals made from corn
- Rice flour
- Products (such as pasta) that are clearly labeled gluten-free
Except in cases of refractory celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is typically successful as celiac disease treatment.