Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive system. It occurs when the body's immune system overreacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. This reaction causes damage to the small intestine, which can lead to a range of symptoms and health complications.
Symptoms of celiac disease can vary from person to person, but may include:
Abdominal pain and bloating
Diarrhea or constipation
Nausea and vomiting
Skin rash or dermatitis herpetiformis
Depression or anxiety
Celiac disease is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It can run in families, and is more common in people with other autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes or thyroid disease.
Diagnosis of celiac disease typically involves blood tests to check for antibodies to gluten, as well as a biopsy of the small intestine to look for signs of damage. It is important to continue consuming gluten before these tests, to ensure accurate results.
Treatment for celiac disease involves a strict gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all foods and products that contain wheat, barley, and rye. Many people with celiac disease also need to avoid oats, due to cross-contamination during processing. A dietitian can help create a healthy and balanced meal plan that is free of gluten, while ensuring that you still get all the necessary nutrients. In some cases, supplements may be necessary to correct nutrient deficiencies.
While there is no cure for celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet can greatly reduce symptoms and prevent further damage to the small intestine. It is important to avoid gluten completely, as even small amounts can cause harm.