Celiac Disease is an inherited autoimmune condition that affects children and adults. People who have Celiac Disease cannot eat foods with gluten as the gluten creates an immune-mediated toxic reaction within their bodies that causes damage to the small intestine and creates problems with food absorption. Even tiny amounts of gluten, the common name for proteins found in specific grains like wheat and rye, can cause unfavorable reactions in people who have this condition. Celiac Disease can occur at any point in a person’s life and can be triggered for the first time by severe emotional trauma, pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, or a viral infection.
Infants, toddlers, and young children who have Celiac Disease may often experience vomiting, bloated abdomen, behavioral changes, or growth failure. Some classic symptoms of the disease in children and adults include abdominal cramping, intestinal gas, chronic diarrhea, constipation, distention and bloating of the abdomen, steatorrhea (greasy, fatty stools), anemia, weight loss with a large appetite, or weight gain.
Celiac disease symptoms can also mimic those of other conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, gastric ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, parasitic infections, and anemia. Other possible symptoms of Celiac Disease may include infertility, depression, mouth ulcers, osteoporosis, delayed puberty, fatigue, bone or joint pain, migraines, and tingling in the extremities. Sometimes there are no obvious signs of the condition, which can be difficult when it comes to diagnosing the disease.
It is important to know that treatment for Celiac Disease is relatively simple and does not often require medication. People with the condition must avoid gluten at all costs. This involves properly educating oneself about gluten and the types of foods that contain it as well as learning about other words that gluten “goes by”. Gluten is most often found in breads, pasta, cookies, pizza crusts and many other foods containing wheat, rye, or barley. It is also often used as a binder in some prescription and over-the-counter drugs, so it is important to talk to your pharmacist about the possibility of gluten being in your medications. Even small amounts of gluten can be very damaging to the small intestine and can affect how nutrients are absorbed into your body. Over time, the disease will cause decreased absorption of nutrients, in turn causing vitamin and nutrient deficiencies that deprive the nervous system, brain, liver, bones, and other vital organs of the nourishment they need in order to function properly.