What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten —primarily found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and other foods containing wheat, barley or rye.
Celiac disease can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients that occurs can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive the brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment.
There is no cure for celiac disease. However, it can be managed by changing your diet.
Signs and Symptoms
Most people with celiac disease complain of:
- Intermittent diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
Celiac disease may also trigger:
- Irritability or depression
- Stomach upset
- Joint pain
- Muscle cramps
- Skin rash
- Mouth sores
- Dental and bone disorders such as osteoporosis
- Tingling in the legs and feet
Some indications of malabsorption of nutrients that may result from celiac disease include:
- Weight loss
- Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating
- General weakness and fatigue
- Foul-smelling or grayish stools that may be fatty or oily
- Stunted growth (in children)
- Dermatitis herpetiformis — an itchy, blistering skin disease that usually occurs on the torso, scalp and buttocks
Causes of Celiac
It's not clear what causes celiac disease. What is known is that something happens in people with celiac disease to cause the body's immune system to overreact in response to gluten in food.
Celiac disease results in damage to the villi, which work to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food you eat.
If someone in your family has been diagnosed with celiac disease, you may have an increased risk of the disease.
Celiac Risk factors
Although celiac disease can affect anyone, it tends to be more common in people who have:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
- Down syndrome
- Microscopic colitis
- Loss of calcium and bone density
- Lactose intolerance
- Neurological complications
- Graham flour
- Spelt (a form of wheat)
- Cakes and pies
- Imitation meats or seafood
- Processed luncheon meats
- Salad dressings
- Sauces (including soy sauce)
- Self-basting poultry
- Grains and starches allowed in a gluten-free diet include:
- Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
- Pure corn tortillas
- Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
- Most dairy products
- Wine, distilled liquors and ciders
Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to:
Lifestyle Alterations when diagnosed with Celiac
Avoid all foods and drinks that contain gluten:
Avoid unless labeled 'gluten-free':
Other gluten-free foods include:
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Ferri FF. Celiac disease. In: Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2011. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/book/player/book.do?method=display&type=aboutPage&decorator=header&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05610-6..C2009-0-38600-6--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05610-6&uniq=210978719. Accessed Nov. 2, 2010.
Rubio-Tapia A, et al. Celiac disease. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. 2010;26:116.
Celiac disease nutrition therapy. ADA Nutrition Care Manual. http://nutritioncaremanual.org/index.cfm. Accessed Nov. 2, 2010.
Celiac disease. National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/index.htm. Accessed Nov. 4, 2010.