Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease, also known as celiac sprue or gluten sensitive enteropathy, is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats. Celiac Disease is not a food allergy that some people can grow out of; it is an autoimmune disease.

Resources for Celiac Disease
Celiac Disease Symptoms and Conditions Checklist
Celiac Disease Foundation
 

Symptoms

  • Abdominal cramping, intestinal gas
  • Distention and bloating of the stomach
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation (or both)
  • Steatorrhea – fatty stools
  • Anemia – unexplained, due to folic acid, B12 or iron deficiency (or all)
  • Unexplained weight loss with large appetite or weight gain
  • Unexplained weight loss with large appetite or weight gain
  • Lactose intolerance (common when the person is diagnosed, usually goes away after treatment)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bruising easily
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Hair loss
  • Itchy skin
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Muscle cramps and joint pain
  • Nosebleeds
  • Seizures
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Growth delay in children or unexplained short height

Causes

The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown. The lining of the intestines contains areas called villi, which help absorb nutrients. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products that contain gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging these villi. This damage affects the ability to absorb nutrients properly. People who have a family member with celiac disease are at greater risk for developing the disease. The disorder is most common in Caucasians and persons of European ancestry. Women are affected more often than men.


Diagnosis

Specific antibody blood tests are the initial step in screening for Celiac Disease. If you are seeking a diagnosis you must follow a daily diet that contains gluten for at least 4 weeks in order for test results to be accurate. If the tests are positive, upper endoscopy is usually performed to sample a piece of tissue (biopsy) from the first part of the small intestine.


Treatment

Celiac disease cannot be cured. However, your symptoms will go away and the villi in the lining of the intestines will heal if you follow a lifelong gluten-free diet.


Daily Management

In order to avoid eating gluten, avoid food and drinks containing:
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Durham
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt (a form of wheat)
  • Triticale
  • Wheat

Avoid these foods unless they're labeled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain. Also check the label to see that they're processed in a facility that is free of wheat or other contaminating products:
  • Beers
  • Breads
  • Cakes and pies
  • Candies
  • Cereals
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Croutons
  • Gravies
  • Imitation meats or seafood
  • Oats
  • Pastas
  • Processed luncheon meats
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces (including soy sauce)
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Soups
Grains and starches allowed in a gluten-free diet include:
  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Cornmeal
  • Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
  • Pure corn tortillas
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Tapioca
  • Other gluten-free foods include:
  • Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
  • Fruits
  • Most dairy products
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Vegetables
  • Wine and distilled liquors, ciders and spirits
Fortunately for bread and pasta lovers with celiac disease, there are an increasing number of gluten-free products on the market. If you can't find any at your local bakery or grocery store, check with a celiac support group or the Internet for availability. In fact, there are gluten-free substitutes for many gluten-containing foods.