What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac is a disease that involves an immune response to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and their cross-grains. When a person with celiac disease ingests gluten, an immune response in the small intestine damages the lining preventing it from absorbing important nutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. There is no cure for celiac disease but following a strict, life-long, gluten free diet is absolutely necessary to manage symptoms, promote healing of the small intestines, and prevention of complications.
The typical symptoms of celiac disease include:
Some not so common symptoms can include:
Along with typical digestive symptoms, symptoms that can be unique to children include:
Some people with celiac disease do not show any symptoms which can cause a delay in diagnosis. Celiac disease is more common in people with other autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disease and type 1 diabetes. There is also a genetic component and is more common in people with first or second degree relatives with celiac disease. Therefore, screening is important in these high risk individuals
Screening for celiac disease can now be done easily with bloodwork. IgA- tissue transglutaminase (TTG) antibody. Patients must be on a gluten diet to obtain accurate results.
Definitive diagnosis is done by a small bowel biopsy. This is done by an endoscopy performed by a gastroenterologist. This test also requires the person to be on a gluten diet to obtain accurate results.
Dermatitis herpetiformis is diagnosed by a skin biopsy.
Treatment for celiac disease is a strict, life-long gluten free diet. It is very important to be aware of potential cross-contamination as miniscule amounts of gluten can be enough to cause damage. Gluten may also be hidden in products that you would not think of. Now with the introduction of food labeling laws, it has become much easier to determine which food products are safe. Head over to Celiac Canada’s website (www.celiac.ca) for more information on living with celiac disease.