All About Celiac Disease

What is Celiac Disease?

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation…Celiac Disease “is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in [100] people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications”.

When someone who has celiac disease eats gluten (wheat, rye or barley), their body reacts to it by damaging the villi (small finger-like projections in their small intestine).  As the villi get destroyed, the body is unable to absorb nutrients that our body needs and therefore they can become malnourished.  In addition to malnourishment, they can also have a slough of other medical conditions such as other autoimmune diseases, thyroid issues, osteoporosis, infertility and cancer.  This autoimmune is serious and there is no cure.  The only way to manage the symptoms is by living a gluten-free diet for life.  There is no surgery, pill or anything else that can help, which is why it is imperative to be diligent in eating gluten-free.

What Are Some of the Symptoms?

Celiac Disease can be hard to diagnose.  With over 300 different symptoms, sometimes it is diagnosed as other conditions first.  Here are a *few* of the symptoms those with celiac disease may encounter:

 

 

How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed? 

To get a diagnosis for celiac disease…a doctor will order some bloodwork.  They will order a special test known as Tissue Transglutaminase, or tTG-IgA test.  This tests the antibodies specific to celiac disease.  Please note that it is best to NOT be on a gluten-free diet before this test is given. If you are on a gluten-free diet, a lot of doctor’s will recommend that you eat at least four slices of bread per day for one to three months prior to the testing.

Should your bloodwork come back consistent with celiac disease, the option to do an endoscopy and biopsy to confirm the diagnosis will be discussed.  This procedure is done by a gastroenterologist and is a quick outpatient procedure.  During this procedure, a biopsy is taken of the small intestine and then analyzed to see if there is damage consistent with celiac disease.

Should The Rest of Our Family Be Tested?

Since Celiac Disease is hereditary, you may be asked to have other members in your family tested.  When my oldest daughter was diagnosed, that is when we were told to test my husband, my youngest daughter and myself.  We were shocked to learn our youngest daughter had it as well.  Neither my husband or I tested positive for it, but doing some genetic testing, we found that I am a carrier of the gene and at any point in my life, it can activate.  Celiac Disease can start at any age.  I feel my oldest daughter (looking back on her infancy) showed symptoms then.  She was diagnosed with a milk and soy protein intolerance and had to immediately stop breastfeeding and be put on a hypoallergenic formula which of course did not contain gluten.  With her, I felt it was present at about 2 months.  I also know a lady that is 75 and recently diagnosed.  This disease does not discriminate…so if you, or your children do test positive for it, it would be wise to have other members tested as well.  Celiac disease can be passed down through the generations. The University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center reports that if a family member is diagnosed with celiac disease there is a one in 20 chance that a first-degree relative—a parent, child or sibling—will also get celiac disease. That prevalence drops to one in 39 for second-degree relatives such as aunts, uncles and grandparents.

Celiac Disease Treatment

There is no treatment for celiac disease.  The only way to live with it and manage it is to live a life-long gluten free diet.