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Five Things You May Not Know About Celiac Disease

May 14, 2018

Gluten-free foods are finding more space on the grocery shelves, but for Americans with celiac disease, it’s not a new fad diet — it’s the only type of food they can eat safely. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten — a substance found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley — the gluten protein prompts an autoimmune reaction. Particularly in the small intestine, gluten damages the villi, the small fingerlike tissues that aid in the absorption of nutrients.

The only treatment for celiac disease is to avoid glutens. Unlike an allergy or an intolerance, celiac disease is an autoimmune condition and its symptoms can affect all parts of the body.

If you’re not familiar with celiac disease, here are some important facts to know:

1. Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease. That means if anyone in your family has it, you also may be at risk of developing the disease. Similarly, if you have it, others in your family might have it, too. It’s important to talk about it to ensure family members are tested and change their diet if needed.

2. Celiac disease affects one in 133 Americans — that’s one percent of the population. Anyone can develop the disease, regardless of gender or race. However, of the people who have the disease, most (83 percent) are unaware they have it. That may be because the symptoms vary or, in some cases, the disease is asymptomatic. However, someone with celiac disease could still experience damage to the intestine without knowing it. 

3. There are more than 300 symptoms associated with celiac disease, including anemia, anxiety, bloating or gas, constipation, delayed grow

4. Celiac disease can lead to additional serious conditions, including infertility, reduced bone density, neurological disorders, some cancers and other autoimmune in children, fatigue, headaches, pale mouth sores and poor weight gain. Many of these symptoms may be attributed to the body not receiving essential nutrients, due to damage in the intestines. Because the symptoms are so varied and similar to other illnesses, it often takes 6 to 10 years to receive an accurate diagnosis.                                          

5. There is currently no pharmaceutical treatment or cure for celiac disease. The only effective treatment is maintaining a 100 percent gluten-free diet. Some foods are naturally gluten-free, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, meats and most dairy products. As increased awareness about gluten grows, more companies are offering gluten-free alternatives to pastas, rice, breads and cakes. Read the labels carefully to ensure the products are truly gluten-free. Also, be aware of gluten that is in food you might not suspect, where it is used as an additive for thickening, binding or anti-caking products such as chewing gum, salad dressings and sauces.

Celiac disease is serious. Being aware of the symptoms and causes can help you begin to understand how to address this illness in yourself or family members. 

Make an appointment with a gastroenterologist today.

Find a doctor in the Orlando Health network. With more than 2,100 physicians practicing at Orlando Health facilities, we cover a full range of specialties including gastroenterology.

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