It wasn’t too long ago that celiac disease was barely talked about and rarely diagnosed. In fact, even though it’s become more recognized, there is still a significant delay in diagnosis of Celiac. This is mostly due to the broad range of symptoms and the various tests required to diagnose the disease.
Celiac disease seriously impacts the small intestine, which plays a vital role in the body getting all of its nutrients from the food we eat. Because of this intestinal damage, celiac disease requires that sufferers change up their lifestyle, especially the foods they consume. More specifically, it requires a diet that is gluten free.
For further details, check out the following information on the signs of Celiac disease and how it affects your gut:
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is classed as an autoimmune disorder. The disease affects a person’s gut and more specifically your small intestine. People who suffer from celiac disease have a problem eating foods that contain gluten, which is a type of protein found in barley, rye and wheat. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, their body’s immune system responds in a way that isn’t considered normal. This response actually ends up damaging the small intestine, which is needed to absorb the nutrients from the food you eat.
Over time, celiac disease can weaken a person’s bones, slow down their growth, lead to anemia, raise a person’s risk of lymphoma, and lead to osteoporosis. Celiac disease affects people of all ages, from young to old. Both men and women can have it. As far as how you get it, doctors believe that there are some genes a person may carry that can make them more prone to having the disease. Additionally, if one or both parents have celiac disease, there is a stronger chance that their child will also develop the disease.
Doctors have also found that people who suffer from autoimmune thyroid disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, microscopic colitis, and type 1 diabetes are more at risk to developing celiac disease.
What Does It Do to My Gut?
As mentioned, people who have celiac disease react poorly to gluten. When they eat gluten, it transforms into a chemical that then sets off a chain reaction in the gut. This chemical produces an immune reaction, which then causes the small intestine to become inflamed. During this inflammation, the villi, which line the small intestine, are damaged. This results in the small intestine not being able to properly absorb nutrients.
How Do I Know if I Have Celiac Disease?
There are a number of symptoms that can point towards the disease, which we will look at in the next section, but it’s up to a doctor to determine whether or not you have it. Typically, you will be asked to come in for a physical exam with your doctor. At this point, they may run blood tests to see if you have the antibodies that indicate you have celiac disease. Additionally, an endoscopy may be ordered to take a look at the inside of your small intestine. A biopsy may be taken during this time as well.
You will then be asked a number of questions and, depending on your answers or what your tests show, you may also be required to do a bone density exam. This is all meant to provide your doctor with the supporting information he/she needs in order to give you an accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
In addition to the mentioned tests, there are numerous symptoms or signs that may indicate that you have celiac disease. However, many of these symptoms can also be attributed to other health ailments or issues. Therefore, it’s important to see your doctor right away even if you have a small suspicion that celiac disease may be the culprit. Common symptoms include:
● Abdominal pain and discomfort
● Loose bowel movements
● Weight loss
● Inability to properly absorb nutrients
● Weakness and fatigue
● Chronic headaches
● Skin rash
● Heartburn and GERD
● Tingling and numbness in feet and hands
● Joint pain
What Steps Should You Take?
If you suspect that you may be suffering from celiac disease, there are a few steps you can take. First, it’s wise to do a little research on the disease. From there, you will want to speak with your doctor or St Lucie GI tract specialist and have a physical or possible tests performed.
At that point, your doctor will be able to guide you on your best treatment options. Because there is no cure, the best option is to usually consume a gluten-free diet. Thanks to celiac disease becoming more mainstream and talked about, grocery stores and restaurants are now providing much more gluten-free options so that those with celiac disease don’t have to miss out.
Dr. Vikram Tarugu
Dr. Vikram Tarugu is a board certified gastroenterologist and hepatologist with vast experience in endoscopic procedures. This St Lucie GI tract specialist has authored various articles and publications relating to gastrointestinal disorders and addiction related issues.