Everything You Need to Know About Celiac Disease
By Sarah Parker Ward
Have you noticed the explosion of gluten-free food options at the grocery store? While some people choose these products, those affected by celiac disease require them. Affecting roughly 1 in every 141 Americans, this digestive disorder can cause serious long-term health problems if left untreated.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that is triggered by gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, or rye, that damages the small intestine. The precise cause of this immune reaction to gluten is not fully known. Researchers have learned that it can result from eating foods containing gluten and genetic variations and environmental factors. Especially interesting is that celiac disease may be triggered later in life after a significant life event like pregnancy, traumatic stress, or even a viral infection.
How Can Celiac Disease Affect You?
While celiac disease affects less than 1 percent of the population, knowing the range of symptoms can help promote early detection especially because (a) many wrongly assume that the symptoms are restricted to digestive system ailments, and (b) the symptoms can often mirror those of other diseases like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or lactose intolerance.
There are more than 200 known celiac disease symptoms, some of which are more prevalent in children than in adults, and vice versa. Symptoms that are common in children include abdominal bloating and pain; chronic diarrhea; vomiting; weight loss; and fatigue. Adults are less likely to have digestive-related symptoms. Instead, these indicators to watch out after childhood include iron deficiency; fatigue; joint pain; depression or anxiety; missed menstrual periods; and canker sores in the mouth.
How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed & Treated?
Celiac Disease can be diagnosed using medical or family history and blood or genetic testing. There are several blood tests available to screen whether you or a loved one carries celiac disease antibodies. For a conclusive diagnosis, your health care provider may perform an endoscopic biopsy.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for celiac disease. But you can manage symptoms with a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet. Because these dietary restrictions can be extensive – gluten is found in a lot of products you might not expect like certain lipsticks – it’s often recommended to work with a doctor or nutritionist to avoid malnutrition.
Third-party references and links provided in this article are for educational purposes only. No sponsorship or endorsement is implied. Information was used from the Celiac Disease Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health.
©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2017