Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder that damages the finger-like villi of small intestine due to the ingestion of protein, known as gluten found in rye, barley, and wheat. When genetically predisposed people eat foods containing gluten, there is a reaction from the immune system that forms antibodies to gluten. As a result, the immune system starts attacking the intestinal lining, known as villi.
Villi are responsible for the absorption of nutrients from food. However, damage to the villi causes malabsorption or problems for the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream, often resulting in malnourishment.
Health Problem Associated With Celiac Disease
A hereditary disorder, celiac disease affects 1 in 100 people across the globe. Left untreated, it risks causing serious health problems, including:
- autoimmune disorders, such as anemia, multiple sclerosis, Type I diabetes, itchy skin rash, infertility, osteoporosis, and miscarriage
- neurological conditions, like short stature, ataxia, dementia, myopathy, migraine, epilepsy, and intestinal cancers
- infertility and miscarriage
- pancreatic insufficiency
- lactose intolerance
- osteoporosis or osteopenia
- vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- gall bladder malfunction
- Central and peripheral nervous system disorders
The intestinal damage can result in bloating, weight loss, and even diarrhea, depriving your nervous system, bones, brain, liver and other organs of vital nourishment. Children with celiac disease may suffer from growth and development problems, causing stomach pain after a meal.
Celiac Disease Symptoms
The immune system protects the body from foreign invaders. When people with celiac disease ingest gluten from food, the immune system responds by producing antibodies. The attack on the small intestine damages villi, besides causing:
- Digestive problems
- Severe skin rash
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Iron deficiency
- Growth problems
- Missed menstrual periods
- Sores in the mouth
- Tingling sensation in legs, hands, feet
Irritability is a common symptom in children, who are at a higher risk of celiac disease than adults. Adults may have one of the following symptoms:
- bone or joint pain
- unexplained anemia
- depression or anxiety
- canker sores in the mouth
- recurrent miscarriage
People with celiac disease may develop severe symptoms or may not any symptoms at all.
Screening is in the form of testing the body for the presence of autoantibodies in people with symptoms. Treatment for celiac disease depends on your diet. It is important to eat a gluten-free diet. Consult with a dietitian to identify foods that contain gluten.