A large and ever growing percentage of the American population suffers from non-celiac disease gluten intolerance, or what most people refer to as gluten sensitivity. These people, and I’m one of them, experiences symptoms like bloating, stomach upsets, skin rashes, and brain fog whenever they eat gluten – a protein found in many grains such as wheat, rye, and barley.
Because of this, one-third of Americans purposely avoid grains and foods that contain gluten.
However, of the millions of people who are sensitive to gluten, one percent of the U.S. population suffers from an extreme reaction to gluten called celiac disease, “What is Gluten Sensitivity ?“.
Celiac disease is genetic, hereditary and potentially serious. Some of the symptoms are similar to plain gluten sensitivity but generally much worse.
One percent of the U.S. population suffers from an extreme reaction to gluten called celiac disease
When a celiac disease suffer consumes gluten, their body’s autoimmune system mistakes the gluten for an invader and attacks it. With no invader to destroy, the autoimmune cells cause damage and inflammation to the cells, tissues, and organs of the body – especially the digestive tract.
Damage to the digestive tract means that your body is less able to remove nutrients from the food you eat and can also cause something called leaky gut where digestive waste leak out of the intensities and into the blood.
The symptoms of celiac disease include:
- Abdominal pain
- Itchy blistery rash
- Loss of bone density
- Headaches or general fatigue
- Bone or joint pain
- Mouth ulcers
- Weight loss
- Bloating or a swelling in the belly
- Pale, foul-smelling stool
- Weight loss
Celiac disease can happen to children or adults and while doctors do not know the exact cause, they do know that you are more likely to suffer from it if there is a family history.
Celiac disease can be diagnosed in several ways. In the first instance, gluten is eliminated from the diet to see if symptoms improve. After a period of not less than 30 days, symptoms are reassessed and improvements noted.
Your doctor may also perform blood tests during this time to see if you have certain antibodies present that indicate the presence of celiac disease.
If still inconclusive, your doctor may recommend an endoscopic examination of your small intestine, during which a small tissue sample will be taken and biopsied.
Because celiac disease can have a big impact on your general health and wellbeing, your doctor will also perform a full physical to ensure you are otherwise fit and healthy. For example, celiac sufferers are more prone to osteoporosis or brittle bone disease.
Treatment of celiac disease
Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, to control your symptoms, you will have to follow a strict gluten free diet (if you’re looking for gluten-free recipes here are my favourites) – at least until your intestines are healed. After that, you may be allowed to reintroduce some grains back into your diet – such as oats – that are well tolerated by some celiac sufferers. You may also be advised to temporarily avoid milk or milk products until your intestine heals. Some doctors also treat celiac disease with oral steroids
Gluten sensitivity is common, and it’s not very nice, but it’s not that serious either. On the other hand, celiac disease is a significant medical condition that requires proper treatment from a doctor. If you suspect that you have celiac disease, make sure you go and get checked out and follow all treatments prescribed.