About Celiac Disease
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, one out of a hundred people has celiac disease. That means 1% of the population, or about 76 million people, have Celiac disease. Many of them go undiagnosed and don’t realize how sick they actually are.
So what is Celiac Disease? It is an autoimmune disease, much like multiple sclerosis, diabetes type one, rheumatoid arthritis, and leukemia. Celiac Disease and leukemia belong in the same classification because both cause an individual’s immune system to attack their body. The body is left weak, and cannot fight off deadly complications.
Celiac Disease is triggered by gluten. When gluten is consumed, the immune system begins to attack the small intestine. The villi of the small intestine are short, hair-like structures that catch food particles and absorb nutrients. They are packed densely along the inner lining of the small intestine, and when attacked and damaged, they can no longer absorb nutrients properly. Thankfully, this treatment is simply a change in diet, and the effects are reversed.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
There are over two hundred symptoms, ranging in severity from infertility to flatulence. Symptoms vary between adults and kids. Typically, adult individuals with Celiac Disease are classified into three groups with corresponding symptoms. Children will sometimes display additional symptoms.
Diarrhea, steatorrhea, and weight loss
Anemia, fatigue, joint pain, arthritis, bone loss, fatty liver, depression, seizures, numbness in limbs, irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis), and abdominal distention
Acid reflux, flatulence, and abdominal distention
Delayed growth, ADHD, short stature, delayed puberty, dental enamel defects in adult teeth
If these symptoms sound familiar, you should try eating a piece of bread or a pizza and see how your body reacts. If you experience the same symptoms in the following 24 hours, you should get screened.
Long-Term Effect and Celiac Disease Symptoms
Celiac disease is easily identifiable and treatable, yet it still goes undiagnosed for millions of people. More and more individuals are trying to get healthy and maintain their healthiest selves. If you are affected by gluten and you consume it regularly, this will never be possible. The long-term effects and symptoms will undermine your health goals. Here are a couple ways continued gluten consumption could be hurting your health.
Celiac Disease and Autoimmune Disorders
Celiac Disease can lead to the development of other autoimmune diseases. Since the immune system is compromised, it can easily misinterpret other healthy cells and attack them as well. The most common autoimmune disorders to affect those with Celiac Disease include neuropathic diabetes and multiple sclerosis. These usually appear in adulthood, after years of gluten consumption.
Celiac Disease and the Flu
When your immune system is busy fighting its own body, it leaves other healthy cells exposed to viruses like the flu. People with autoimmune disorders have a much higher mortality rate because their immune system is compromised. It is fairly easy to stay healthy and manage Celiac Disease if you know you have it. With the recent flu outbreaks and deaths, it is essential to know if your immune system functions properly.
Celiac Disease and Other Complications
If left untreated, Celiac Disease can also lead to the development of cancer, early onset osteoporosis, nervous system disorders, and malnutrition. The longer someone who is triggered by gluten continues to eat it, the more severe the effects can become. Development of certain complications can diminish the quality of life, while others, like cancer, could shorten your life completely.
Diagnosing Celiac Disease
There are two Celiac Disease tests. First is the blood screening test (tTG-IgA test). This test looks for gluten antibodies in your blood. If they are present, you are reacting to gluten. Second is the endoscopic biopsy. This celiac disease test should be performed by a profession gastroenterologist. Only the biopsy confirms intestinal damage and can be used to diagnose Celiac Disease. Make sure to talk to your doctor and seek out a specialist if necessary. If you test positive on the blood test and negative on the biopsy, you should still eliminate gluten from your diet, because you may have non-celiac wheat sensitivity. There is some evidence that continued gluten consumption could lead to further complications of this condition.
Learning the Hard Way
As a child, I suffered from ADHD, stunted growth, emotional instability, and a plethora of gastrointestinal issues. When my doctor finally did a screening test, my antibody levels were off the charts. Finally, we had a real answer to these issues. I scheduled an appointment with a gastroenterologist. It was three months away and in that time I eliminated gluten from my diet. By the time I had my biopsy, the doctor could tell my body was healing. More importantly, I had energy; I was happy and healthy.
I was fifteen when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and after eliminating gluten in high school, I relapsed and started eating it again in college. I spent the next seven years in denial, still eating gluten regularly until I developed dermatitis herpetiformis. It spread from my neck to my face, and while it isn’t a form of herpes, it was just as unappealing. I broke out in what appeared to be deep pimples, but they were painful, itchy, and only appeared after I ate gluten, sometimes within hours. I finally cleaned up my diet (100% gluten-free diet is the only way to heal), but it still took years for my body to recover. I never had regular menstrual cycles as a teenager, and when I was trying to get pregnant, it took years of a gluten-free diet for my body to normalize. I did not get pregnant until I had stopped eating gluten for three years.
It is possible to reverse the effects of this disease and improve your life, but you have to know you have it. If you are reading this and thinking, maybe I DO have Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity, just get tested. It’s worth it to know. Don’t spend years compromising your health and happiness when the best “you” is right around the corner.
Health is first wealth. Stay rich in life, and take care of yourself.