Although not given due recognition, Celiac Disease strikes about 6–8 million Indians.
In an era of dietary trends, there is a disorder that goes beyond your food whims. Welcome to the world of this chronic immune and digestive disorder called Celiac Disease. A health condition that triggers confusion when you eat gluten and damages your small intestine.
Gluten is a naturally occurring protein in grains like wheat and rye. However, do not make the mistake of limiting it to a mere Celiac Disease gluten intolerance case. That’s because it is an autoimmune issue that can leave you with severe repercussions if ignored. Your body’s failure to absorb nutrients and deficiencies that tag along as a result, for instance.
So, if you want to prevent your little ones from experiencing stunted growth. Or avoid your body going self-destructive, it’s high time to update yourself on the matter.
Fret not. Here’s my blog that can be the perfect balm for your worries.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is a chronic problem that happens due to an immune response to eating gluten. When you intake the protein, your protective guard attacks the small intestine. It sends armed forces antibodies and inflammatory cells to demolish the gluten molecules. But eventually, they end up harming the lining of the intestine. More specifically, the tiny fingerlike projections called ‘Villi’, which then cease to perform. Resulting in malabsorption, a situation where the villi cannot absorb essential nutrients anymore. This gives birth to malnutrition and a host of related problems.
Celiac Disease Symptoms
The list of signs and symptoms of Celiac Disease is pretty varied. Digestive difficulties are quite common in this. Yet, more than half of the adults experience problems that do not go hand in hand with the digestive system.
Digestive issues include:
Loss of weight
Pain in the abdomen
Non-digestive troubles include:
Osteoporosis (loss of bone mass and mineral density)
Osteomalacia (weakening or softening of the bones)
Dermatitis Herpetiformis (blistering skin rashes, mostly on knees, elbows, bum, or scalp)
Hyposplenism (impaired spleen functioning)
Increased liver enzymes
Celiac Disease Symptoms in Children
In children's cases, the signs swing more toward digestive complications. Like smelly stools, diarrhea, and gas. But it causes a variety of growth-related problems too. Courtesy of the body being unable to absorb necessary nutrients.
Tooth enamel damage
Neurological complications like:
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Celiac Disease Symptoms in Females
In females, the condition may manifest in the form of:
Missed/ irregular periods
Absence of menstruation
Major Complications of Celiac Disease
Celiac Disease, on the surface level, may seem to be a serious case of gluten allergy. But without quick Celiac Disease treatment, things might take many unnecessary complicated turns. If left untreated, you may develop:
Intestinal cancers (for eg. Intestinal Lymphoma and small bowel cancer)
Peripheral Neuropathy (damage to the nerves that dwell outside the brain and spinal cord)
What is Celiac Disease Caused by?
The exact causes of Celiac Disease are not very precise yet. But genes do play a partial role in it making the individual more vulnerable. That being said, gene mutations cannot be blamed for every case. The situation may also get triggered due to the following:
Feeding practices of infants
Severe emotional stress
Possible risk factors also include:
Type 1 Diabetes
Down Syndrome (individual has extra chromosome)
William Syndrome (rare developmental disorder)
Turner Syndrome (a female genetic disorder where she has only one X chromosome)
Autoimmune thyroid disease
Microscopic Colitis (inflammation in the colon lining)
Addison's Disease (adrenal glands not making enough hormones)
When Does Celiac Disease Occur?
Celiac Disease can develop at any age. However, two age windows typically see the problem first surfacing. One is in infants between 8 and 12 months. The phase in which they start eating solid foods that may contain gluten. The other is in midlife between 40 and 60 years.
How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
Are you suffering from gastrointestinal troubles every time you eat gluten? Well, then you need to make a doctor’s appointment at your earliest convenience.
The diagnosis is usually made by two blood tests:
Serology testing - This is used to test antibodies in the blood. Increased levels of some antibody proteins are an indication of Celiac Disease.
Genetic testing - The test helps to look for HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8. These are human leukocyte antigens that are important to rule out the condition.
Note: For the accuracy of the reports, make sure you get the tests done before omitting gluten from your diet.
If the above exams state a positive case, you may have to take an additional Celiac Disease test.
Endoscopy - A small sample of the small intestine is taken for biopsy via a camera. This helps analyze the extent of damage to villi.
Capsule Endoscopy - A tiny wireless camera is introduced inside a capsule. Once you swallow it, it moves through the digestive tract and helps study the entire intestine.
Celiac Disease Treatment - Can It Be Cured?
Unfortunately, a permanent Celiac Disease cure is not possible. That’s because how your system reacts to gluten is beyond human control. But, eliminating the protein from your life can be a life changer when it comes to preventing the issue. Your Celiac Disease diet should be free of wheat and other gluten-rich items like:
Do keep in mind, that gluten may be present in pills and non-food products too. Including vitamin-mineral supplements, lipsticks, toothpaste, and herbal/nutritional supplements. So, make it a habit of checking the levels carefully before trying out anything new.
Doctors may also prescribe specific Celiac Disease drugs to treat related concerns.
Nutritional supplements (to resolve nutrient deficiencies)
Dapsone (it treats Dermatitis Herpetiformis)
Corticosteroids (to ease severe inflammation)
With about 1% of people worldwide suffering from the condition, you are not alone in your fight. Of course, some scenarios can be more serious. Thereby demanding an emergency doctor’s consultation. Examples of such instances include:
You have been facing digestive issues and diarrhea for over 2 weeks.
Your child looks pale and irritable or is not showing proper growth.
There’s a potbelly that refuses to go.
The stools are bulky and smell extremely foul.
In general, a strict gluten-free Celiac Disease diet is key to surviving the situation. Also, constant follow-up care, like timely testing, is advised to keep the disorder in check.
The Author : Dr. Sunil Khattri
Dr. Sunil Khattri MBBS, MS(General Surgery), LLB, is a Medical doctor and is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi.