Let’s explore the causes, symptoms, and possible ways to live with this syndrome. In our country, one in every 100-150 people has celiac disease, an inflammatory bowel disease, which hyper-relates to some molecules produced by the digestion of gluten.
Symptoms are similar to those of all other intolerances, such as lactose, and appear with the onset of weaning of newborns. In other cases, when the symptoms are not intestinal, the diagnosis can be made later, during adolescence. Let’s see together the characteristics of this disease and how we can learn to live with it so that daily life is not too affected.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a chronic inflammation of the intestine walls, which responds negatively to gliadin. Gliadin is formed in the intestine when foods containing gluten, a molecule of starch and wheat, in barley and rye are ingested. Suppose celiac disease is not diagnosed and your diet is not corrected accordingly.
In that case, there is a risk that the intestinal villi (the internal protrusions of the epithelium) will flatten and prevent the absorption of all other nutrients, such as vitamins. In this case, it is much more challenging to manage the lifestyle. Therefore an early diagnosis is an action that most protects the quality of life of those affected by this disorder.
The Causes Of Celiac Disease
Celiac disease has predominantly genetic causes. It is no coincidence that the number of patients in Asian and African populations is much lower than in Caucasians. A slight prevalence of patients is female: it is possible, although not established, that hormones play a role in the development of the disease. On the other hand, among the ascertained risk factors, there are:
- Down syndrome
- Turner disease
- Diseases of the thyroid gland
- Type 1 diabetes
Symptoms Of Celiac Disease
Most of the symptoms of celiac disease are related to the intestines and digestive system. In most cases, chronic diarrhea, bloating, cramps, whitishness, and high-fat stools are present. Children with undiagnosed syndrome struggle to gain weight and do not gain height because nutrient absorption is impaired. If diagnosed late, general malabsorptive symptoms, such as anemia may develop, and the disease may be discovered following recurrent miscarriages. In a small percentage of cases, patients are asymptomatic and discover they have the disease by chance during other checks.
How Celiac Disease Is Diagnosed
There are two tests to diagnose the celiac disease:
- Search for antibodies, i.e., the substances that the body produces when it reacts to a molecule (in this case, gluten)
- Intestinal biopsy by gastroscopy. Due to the procedure’s invasiveness, its use is limited to adolescents and adults.
The doctor will not change the diet before having performed the tests. By eliminating gluten before the results, the result would be distorted (in fact, 4/6 weeks of adequate nutrition are enough to observe a significant reduction in symptoms).
Managing Celiac Disease With Diet
Celiac disease is treatable: the symptoms are managed with scrupulous attention to food. In case of specific and disabling symptoms, such as abdominal pain or vitamin deficiency, symptomatic medications (painkillers, anti-spastic, supplements) can be used temporarily. However careful, steroids can offer relief if the disease does not respond to diet, albeit at the cost of significant side effects.
A dietician will instruct the person, even if of a young age, to know the foods that contain gluten and therefore must be strictly avoided. The gluten that triggers the symptoms of celiac disease is contained in wheat, barley, and rye; some patients also react to oats. Many food additives, such as thickeners and dyes, can contain gluten. Meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, corn, millet, rice, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, excellent protein, and carbohydrate sources do not contain gluten.
The reaction to gluten is of a food nature only and requires ingestion: the use of cosmetics, inhalation, or contact with eyes does not cause problems. Due to the high cost of many food products developed for celiacs and considering that the disease is recognized as disabling if not treated, vouchers are available for purchase by patients with confirmed diagnoses.