Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease in which the ingestion of gluten damages the small intestine. Celiac is a hereditary disease that runs in families and affects about 1 in 100 people worldwide. This article will discuss five things you should know about celiac disease.
1. Celiac is an Autoimmune Disease, not an Allergy
Celiac disease is often confused with gluten allergy. On the contrary, celiac is an autoimmune disease triggered by ingesting gluten and other food proteins such as wheat and rye. Unlike food allergies that start in childhood and subside in adulthood, autoimmune diseases are a lifelong battle that creates damaging inflammation.
2. Celiac Disease Can Be Hereditary
Celiac disease is hereditary, which means that it runs in families. Typically, individuals with a parent, child, or sibling with celiac disease have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac. Like other autoimmune diseases, celiac will cluster within families. Even with a secondary family member (biological aunt, uncle, cousins) testing positive for celiac, individuals still have a 5% risk of developing the disease. It's important to note that once someone in your family tests positive for celiac, you should also consider getting screened.
3. Symptoms of Celiac Can Vary
Although there are common signs of celiac disease, symptoms can drastically vary from person to person. Symptoms in kids with celiac can have the more classic digestion issues, such as diarrhea and abdominal pain. At the same time, adults will not experience diarrhea at all. There are more than 2000 celiac disease symptoms, however most common include:
- Stomach Bloating and Pain
- Diarrhea or Constipation
- Weight loss
- Iron-Deficiency Anemia
- Sores inside the Mouth
- Tooth Discoloration
4. Celiac is Best Diagnosed With Blood Testing
Celiac Disease can be challenging to diagnose as the symptoms can point to several other illnesses. However, two lab tests can help pinpoint the next steps in a celiac diagnosis. The first test is a Serology test, which looks for elevated levels of antibody proteins that would indicate an immune reaction. The second is Genetic testing, which analyzes the blood for human leukocyte antigens to help rule out celiac disease.
If your blood work indicates celiac disease, your doctor might order secondary testing to investigate further. Secondary testing includes an Endoscopy when a long tube is passed through your mouth and through and enables your doctor to look at your small intestine.
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5. Prevalence of Celiac Disease is on the Rise
Over the last few years, celiac diagnoses have gradually increased. Research has shown that the prevalence of the celiac disease has increased by 7.5% per year over the previous decade. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention estimates that about 3 million people in the United States live with celiac. However, only about 3 percent of that population has been officially diagnosed.
About Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is a chronic digestive, an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine. The disease is triggered by eating foods containing gluten. It can cause long-lasting digestive problems and keep your body from getting all the nutrients it needs.
Source: Cleveland Clinic
Gluten is a protein found naturally in wheat, barley, and rye and is common in bread, pasta, cookies, and cakes. Other gluten products include prepackaged foods, lip balms, lipsticks, toothpaste, vitamins, and nutrient supplements.
Celiac disease is different from gluten sensitivity or wheat intolerance. You may have gluten sensitivity symptoms like celiac disease, such as abdominal pain and tiredness. Unlike celiac disease, gluten sensitivity does not damage the small intestine.
Source: Gluten Free Jio
Celiac Disease Frequently Ask Questions
The FAQ section provides a deep dive into celiac disease, its symptoms, and treatment.
What Are The Primary Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
As mentioned above, symptoms of celiac disease can differ from person to person and in children and adults. As celiac primarily affects the digestive tract, digestive signs and symptoms include:
- Weight Loss
- Bloating and Gas
- Abdominal Pain
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Loss of Bone Density
- Itchy skin
- Mouth Ulcers
- Headaches and Fatigue
- Joint Pain
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How Do You Treat Celiac Disease?
While there are no official medical treatments to cure celiac disease, there are steps you can take to manage the disease. The first step of disease management is to stop eating gluten. Removing gluten from your diet will prevent your body from triggering a reaction, as well as give your gut and digestive system time to heal. Additional treatment might include:
- Nutritional Supplements
- Corticosteroids to treat severe inflammation
- Continuous follow-up care with your provider
Can Celiac Disease Lead to Other Illnesses?
Celiac Disease is a life-long autoimmune disease that can affect other bodily systems and lead to other illnesses. Two of the main long-term issues of celiac disease are chronic inflammation and chronic malnutrition from lack of absorption in the small intestine. Other illnesses and complications include:
- Permanent Dental Defects
- Muscle Spasm and Coordination Issues
- Attention and Learning Disabilities
- Compromised Immune System
- Additional Food Intolerances
- Liver Disease
Celiac Disease is a hereditary autoimmune disorder that can cause significant damage to your digestive system if left untreated. With over 3 million people in the United States with celiac and, only 3 percent receive the proper diagnosis. Knowing the signs, symptoms, and familial history can help your doctor with testing and diagnostics. On average celiac testing costs $119 without insurance.
The testing process can be expensive, requiring multiple tests to render an official diagnosis. However, with Mira, members can access low-cost lab testing, urgent care visits, and prescription medication for an average of $45 per month. Sign up Today!
Originally from Houston, Texas, Alexandra is currently getting her Master's in Public Health with a health policy certificate at Columbia University. One of her life goals is to own her own art gallery!