Celiac Disease (Gluten Intolerance): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

Celiac Disease, also known as coeliac disease, is a relatively new condition that is sweeping across the world in ever-growing numbers. Proper diagnosis and treatments for Celiac disease are finally being recognized. It was first given a name in the late 19th century, but it wasn’t until the past decade or so that people became keenly aware of this disease, which affects approximately 1 in 1,500 people in America, and studies are being done in other parts of the world as well. What was once considered a food allergy or a “sensitive stomach” is often some variation of the Celiac disease, whether extremely mild or terribly severe.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease characterized by an inability of the small intestine to properly recognize and metabolize gluten, which is a prolamin and is commonly found in wheat-based substances. The small intestine’s enzymes transform gluten, and the immune system reacts and responds accordingly, trying to eliminate the gluten. This results in an inflammatory reaction in the small intestine, which leads to severe pain, digestive discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, and a number of other symptoms.

As with many autoimmune diseases, this is your own body attacking itself, and as such, it is very difficult to cure. Celiac disease does not have a known cure, and the only way to alleviate the painful condition is to restrict your diet to a gluten-free variety for the rest of your life. Fortunately, the amount of restaurants and stores that now have gluten-free items available is dramatically increasing the scale, and therefore, this disease is increasingly understood.

Causes of Celiac Disease

Gluten is found in foods like wheat, rye, barley, farina, gram, etc. It is a protein, that when eaten by people with celiac disease, does immense damage to their villi, which are little finger like protrusions that can be seen along the small intestinal wall.

Furthermore, gluten is responsible for nutrient absorption. Therefore, when the inflammation damages the villi, people suffering from Celiac disease are able to absorb fewer nutrients, often causing them to feel weak, and eat more food (some of which contains gluten) making the problem begin all over again. This is why proper diagnosis is essential, so dietary and behavioral remedies can be put in place before more serious damage is done. Celiac disease is often associated with other diseases like enteritis and colitis, as well as various other autoimmune diseases that often result from non-treatment or lack of awareness of a Celiac condition.

While gluten is considered as the primary cause of celiac disease, there are numerous other reasons as well, these include:

  • Environmental factors
  • Emotional stress
  • Abnormal interaction between the genes
  • Post-surgical stress
  • Stomach infections
  • Bacteria
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Viral fevers

The disease is genetic/inherited, but about 5% of Celiac patients have also seemed to spontaneously develop the gene mutation, just like those who inherited it from their genes.

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Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease

With the number of Celiac patients rising every year, it is increasingly important to recognize when you might be developing the disease. The most common symptoms of Celiac disease are:

In Adults

• A pale or loose stool
• Unexplained weight loss
• Loss of bone density
Migraines
• Joint pain (Arthritis)
• Heartburn
• Mouth ulcers
• Itchy blistery rash (Dermatitis herpetiformis)
• Fatigue
Iron-deficiency anemia
Abdominal pain
• Cramping
• Bloating
• IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and
• Nausea

In Children

Symptoms of the celiac disease among children are mostly related to the digestive system, they include the following:

• Diarrhea
• Bloating in the stomach
• Abdominal pain
• Vomiting and nausea
• Smelly stool
• Fatigue
Weight loss
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
• Halted physical growth
• Dental ailments
Constipation
• Rashes

Furthermore, due to the inability to absorb nutrients properly, many different vitamin and mineral deficiencies can arise without the more obvious gastrointestinal symptoms. Celiac strikes people in varying degrees of severity, so many people continue to eat gluten and have no dramatic symptoms that might make them suspicious. However, fatigue, weakness, appetite loss, weight loss, and the complications of nutrient deficiency can often point to a mild form of the Celiac Disease. So be diligent and pay attention to your body!

Diagnosis of Celiac Disease

For the diagnosis of celiac disease, your doctor will first take a family medical history test, wherein they will ask questions that point towards the presence of this disease in any other member of the family. The doctor will also test for type 1 diabetes, liver ailments, thyroid problems, or any syndrome like Turners, Williams, or Down syndrome.

The doctor can also directly and accurately test for gluten intolerance or celiac disease by keeping you on a gluten filled diet for 8 weeks. Other tests include blood tests, such as serology test, in which they look for an elevated level of antibodies in your blood, and genetic tests like the HLA to check for the human leukocyte antigens. These tests help in ruling out any or all the chances of a celiac disease.

Your doctor may also do an endoscopy to check if there has been any damage to the small intestine. Not just that but they will take a little sample tissue from your small intestinal lining and then send it for biopsy. This procedure involves a tube that is inserted through your mouth towards the esophagus and then down the intestinal tract.

On the basis of the above tests, they will give a positive or negative diagnosis.

Home Remedies and Treatments for Coeliac Disease

Home remedies and treatments for Celiac Disease or Coeliac Disease include a number of dietary, lifestyle, and behavioral treatments that can help reduce the severe symptoms of this condition. These remedies include fish oil, dietary restrictions, nutritional supplements, yogurt, goldenseal, chamomile, horsetail tea, a gluten-free diet, and papain supplements.

Fortunately, there are a number of home remedies or lifestyle modifications that you can take to prevent the Celiac disease from ruling your life! Some of the most common and popular home remedies are explained below.

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Gluten-free Diet

Perhaps the most obvious home remedy for Celiac disease is a complete overhaul of your diet to eliminate anything that contains gluten. It is important to know that gluten is not only found in direct wheat products. Gluten is added to thousands of different food items as additional bulk, or space-filling material. It is found in wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. This means that is in almost all bread and grain products, as well as imitation meats, ice cream, ketchup, desserts, baked goods, soy sauce, and hundreds of others. It is also used as a stabilizing agent for foods like mashed potatoes. By checking the labels on all of your food items, exploring gluten-free brands, and always asking at restaurants for a gluten-free menu (more of these exist every day), you can safely eliminate gluten from your diet. This is the most obvious and popular way to reduce the effects of the Celiac disease – simply be mindful of everything you eat and pay attention to labels! Eating foods like vegetables, fruits, meat, and poultry are usually safe; the more processed or unnatural a food is, the more likely it will be to have gluten as an ingredient!

Papain Supplements

There are certain supplements that people eat that can stimulate the enzymes in the small intestine to properly identify gluten, thereby reducing the immune system response. These papain supplements are available at most health food stores and are gaining in popularity from those who don’t want to drastically check their gluten intake with a completely renovated diet. However, there is not a guarantee on these supplements, and some people still suffer from mild effects of Celiac disease when taking them.

Fish Oil

Fish oil is widely used for a number of health conditions, but one of the most effective uses of fish oil is as a coating for your intestinal lining. By consuming fish oil, it can keep your small intestines from becoming inflamed, therefore preventing a painful flare-up of Celiac symptoms if you accidentally consume some gluten.

Yogurt

Many people that have Celiac disease didn’t know for many years, which means that their intestinal villi are badly damaged, and the efficiency of nutrient absorption in their body is poor. Yogurt is known to stimulate beneficial bacteria and promote the healing of the digestive tract, so Celiac patients are often encouraged to increase their intake of yogurt.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

If your doctor detects any deficiencies, they will prescribe you supplements including calcium, iron, vitamin D, K, and B12, zinc, etc. These supplements should be gluten free and should be given through injections, as pills can cause further damage to the intestinal tract.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis

In the case of itching and rashes, your doctor will also prescribe you medicine for the same. This may include creams such as Dapsone and a diet that is gluten free.

Refractory Celiac Disease

When you are suffering from refractory celiac disease, then your small intestine is beyond healing, that is to say, it cannot be treated. This is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention, even though it doesn’t have any proven treatment. Oftentimes, steroid therapy, which includes topical budesonide or prednisone, are used for the treatment, whereas, other times, medicines that are commonly used for other treatments may be prescribed by your physician.

Herbal Treatments

Goldenseal and olive leaf extracts are commonly used in the treatment of Celiac disease because they help to regulate and protect the immune system, thereby reducing the auto-immune effects on the small intestine, lessening the severity of a Celiac disease. Furthermore, chamomile is another good herb to reduce the digestive inflammation and upset stomachs that are associated with Celiac disease.

Horsetail Tea

This tea is associated with reducing the inflammation of the digestive tract and the intestines, while also boosting the strength and durability of the digestive system, so your system is less sensitive to gluten.

Nutritional Supplements

After being diagnosed with Celiac disease, there is a good chance that your body is slightly deficient in various essential nutrients since your intestines haven’t been properly absorbing them. For this reason, it is a good idea to regularly take dietary and nutrient supplements to ensure that your body gets back on track. Some Celiac patients continue taking nutrient supplements for years as a way to make up for some of the nutrients they will lose due to their selective diet. Luckily, it is becoming much easier in recent years to maintain a well-balanced diet without consuming any gluten, and without spending an exorbitant amount of money!

Having Celiac disease isn’t the end of the world, you just need to be a bit more careful with what you eat and you should be able to live a normal and happy life.

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