Celiac disease affects great numbers of people and can cause serious discomfort if remaining undiagnosed. Put simply, it is suffered by people who have a reaction to gluten, a substance found in many foods. The reaction is caused by the immune system challenging the gluten, and this can harm the vital small intestine and cause an imbalance in the vital nutrients that we need. In the following article awe are going to examine the celiac symptoms, what you can do to treat celiac, how it is diagnosed and the foods that cause irritation.
Celiac disease can be recognised easily as it shows specific symptoms, but it is important that a doctor carries out a diagnosis as it can easily be mistaken for a number of other conditions. Let’s have a look at the common symptoms of celiac:
- Weight loss
- Tiredness and general weakness
- Bloating and excess gas
- Change in bowel movements
The problem with diagnosing celiac disease is that the symptoms may only be mild and, therefore, might not trouble the patient unduly. In such cases it will thus remain undiagnosed.
What Is Celiac Disease?
In simple terms it is an irritation of the small intestine, a vital part of our digestive system, which is known to be caused by a reaction to the presence of gluten. Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in the likes of wheat, barley, rye and some other grains, all of which are used widely in food such as bread and pasta. We will look at the foods you should eat, and those you should avoid, later on. It is essential that celiac disease diagnosis is sought if you suffer from the above symptoms, as it can be dangerous – especially in young children. It may lead to anaemia and osteoporosis and has also been linked to an increase in the risk of lymphoma. If you think your child is showing the symptoms of celiac you should seek medical advice straight away.
As explained above, celiac disease is caused by eating foods containing gluten, and comes about when the immune system reacts against the gluten and causes damage to the small intestine. However, there is little knowledge of why this occurs, or why some people contract celiac disease and others do not. Research has shown that you are more likely to suffer from celiac disease if it runs in the family, and it has been linked to certain specific gene patterns.
How Is Celiac Diagnosed?
If you suspect you may be suffering from celiac disease it is important that you get a medical diagnosis; some of the symptoms are present in many other illnesses and it is easy to mistake celiac for something else. Blood tests are a routine method of looking for antibodies that indicate celiac, but you may also need to undergo an endoscopy, a camera examination of your intestine that will confirm the disease by way of biopsy.
As we know that celiac disease is caused by gluten, treatment is largely a dietary concern. You will need to cut out food containing gluten – we will list some in a moment – and most people find they have notable improvements within a couple of weeks. A dietician will help draw up your gluten-free diet, but here is a list of food you will need to avoid:
- Bread and crackers
- Pasta and pizza
- Breakfast cereals with malt
- Beer and ale
- It is also recommended to avoid milk, at least at first
You should pay close attention to ingredients as many items – including some medicines – can include gluten, and do not mistake ‘wheat free’ for gluten-free, they are not the same thing.
What Are The Complications Of Celiac?
If left untreated celiac disease can lead to some serious problems; in children especially the disease can lead to problems with bone development and can be very damaging. Here are some other possible complications of celiac disease:
- Weight loss and, in children, stunted growth
- Iron deficiency anaemia
- Loss of tooth enamel
- Damage to the intestines
- Rectal prolapse
- Anxiety and depression
Many sufferers do not find any complications, especially if they handle their diet correctly, but it is essential that you are treated in order to avoid increasing the risk of the above.
What Can I Eat On The Celiac Disease Diet?
Basically, you are free to eat anything that is not listed in the section above on what you must avoid; that is, anything that does not contain gluten. This includes the following:
- Meat and fish
- Fruit and vegetables
- Eggs and cheese
- Food made from flour that is not wheat or barley based
- Wine, liquor and cider
The rule is that you should read all ingredients – especially on canned foods – to see if they contain gluten. It is perfectly possible to enjoy a balanced, healthy diet when suffering from celiac disease, and you will feel much better for it.
We hope this article has enabled you to understand what celiac disease is, how it comes about and how it can be managed, as well as helping you to find the food that should be avoided to treat the disease.