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Celiac Disease: symptoms and treatment
by TeenHelp May 4th 2018, 12:38 PM

Celiac Disease: symptoms and treatment
By Dez (Melancholia.)

Celiac Disease is a genetic condition that affects the immune system when someone with the condition eats gluten. Gluten is in wheat, barley, and rye. If someone with celiac disease eats gluten, their immune system attacks the small intestine and harms the villi. This makes it harder for the immune system to properly take in nutrients. About 1% of the population has Celiac Disease [Source]. According to the National Institutes of Health, the disease is most common in white females, or people with other diseases such as Down Syndrome, Turner Syndrome, or Type I diabetes. Since the disease is genetic, a major risk factor is having another family member who has the disease. In fact, 10-20% of people who have Celiac Disease also have a family member with the disease.

Gluten-free diets have become more of a fad. However, it is important to remember that Celiac Disease is a serious medical condition that requires this specialized diet. Read on to learn what it means to have Celiac Disease.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Sometimes people with Celiac Disease do not have symptoms until another life event or a large amount of stress triggers them. It is important to note that while Celiac Disease is a digestive disorder and many of the symptoms point to this, there are some symptoms that occur elsewhere in the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms are:
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating and gas
  • Stomach pain, nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Anemia
  • Itchy skin with blisters
  • Headaches
  • Acid reflux
  • Heartburn

How Celiac Disease is diagnosed

Sometimes Celiac Disease can be mistaken for other medical conditions. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. A doctor will start with a physical examination. They will also ask about someone's family history and about any previous health problems.

Doctors can administer a blood test where they look for antibodies relating to Celiac Disease. The presence of these antibodies would signal that someone has Celiac. Genetic testing can also be done, but this is sometimes inconclusive as further testing may still be required.

Another way doctors determine whether or not someone has Celiac Disease is through a biopsy of the intestines. This is done through an endoscopy, where a camera is passed through your mouth and esophagus, eventually reaching the intestine. Once there, doctors will take a small piece of intestinal tissue to examine and run tests. In some cases, Celiac Disease can also affect the skin. In these instances, a biopsy of the skin can also be taken [
Source
].

How is Celiac Disease treated?

The Celiac Disease Foundation states that in America alone, 2.5 million people who have Celiac Disease have not been diagnosed which puts them at risk for severe health problems. If left untreated, Celiac Disease can lead to further complications such as nutritional deficiencies, a quicker progression of bone softening, issues with the nervous system such as migraines or seizures, and fertility problems. In some instances, untreated Celiac Disease can also cause cancers of the intestines and other bodily systems as well as diseases of the liver [Source]. Therefore, it is important to follow any treatment plan the doctor gives.

The most common way to treat Celiac Disease is by removing any gluten from the diet. This article discusses the basics of going gluten free. It can also be helpful for someone with Celiac Disease to speak with a doctor or nutritionist if they are unsure about how to remove gluten from their diet. While someone with Celiac Disease does have to change their diet, they do not have to miss out on eating everything they used to enjoy. Many popular brands now sell gluten-free products. For example, Pillsbury sells gluten-free baking mixes.

In the United States, food companies are required to warn consumers that their product contains gluten. They are also required to follow strict guidelines before they can label a product gluten-free. This makes it easier for consumers to ensure they are purchasing products that meet their dietary needs.

When going to a new restaurant, someone with Celiac Disease may have to do a little research to determine if gluten-free options are offered. This may involve looking up the menu or calling the restaurant in advance. Upon arrival, it may be useful for them to let the server know that they are avoiding gluten to be extra sure none will be used in the cooking process.

Sometimes someone with Celiac Disease may have to advocate for themselves in schools. Whether it is a grade school or a university, some schools have a limited variety of gluten-free options. In these instances, it may help to talk to the cafeteria or food service workers to advocate for better gluten-free options.

While it is important for those with Celiac Disease to get the proper diagnosis and follow their treatment plan, this condition does not have to ruin someone's life. With time, living with this condition becomes easier and it is not impossible for someone to eat the foods they love.
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