Do you know if you are celiac? 7 Common Questions
Do you think Sophie's story is similar to yours? Celiac Disease is a reaction of the immune system to the consumption of gluten.
Sophie had been feeling abdominal pain for a couple of months that used to appear right after eating a certain type of bread or cookies. She also suffered from gas and felt bloated. She thought it was stress or the result of other foods in her diet. She decided to keep a journal to check how she felt after each meal of the day. After a few weeks she had a clue that her doctor later confirmed: she had celiac disease.
In that moment she wondered...what is Celiac disease? Her question is that of many.
Also called gluten-sensitive enteropathy, celiac disease is a reaction of the immune system to the consumption of gluten, a family of proteins that is present in certain types of cereals, barley and rye.
When this reaction occurs, the big hit is the small intestine, which over time begins to see its villi worn away, which has a major impact on nutrient absorption, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
1. What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can be varied, depending on age. Adults often experience fatigue, weight loss, bloating and gas, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and constipation.
Children, for their part, have pale, foul-smelling stools, a swollen abdomen, constipation, chronic diarrhea, and nausea and vomiting.
2. Can symptoms not related to the digestive system appear?
Yes. As described by the Mayo Clinic, adults can present with mouth ulcers, anemia, headaches and tiredness, joint pain, damage to the nervous system, skin rash, and decreased spleen function.
3. What is the cause of this disease?
It is a hereditary disease. According to medical studies, people with a first-degree relative with the disease have a 1 in 10 risk of developing it.
It is important to note that the disease can appear at any age, after people start consuming gluten. Dietary practices, gut bacteria, and infections of the gastrointestinal system may also contribute to the onset of the disease.
4. Are there risk factors?
Type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, microscopic colitis, Addison's disease, Down Syndrome, and a family member with celiac disease are risk factors.
5. What are its long-term consequences?
If this disease is not treated in time, it can lead to malnutrition, lactose intolerance, cancer, nervous system problems, infertility, and miscarriage.
It is also important to note that, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, people with celiac disease:
- have 2 times higher risk of developing coronary artery disease.
- have 4 times higher risk of developing small bowel cancer.
6. Is there any treatment?
Doctors usually treat the disease with a gluten-free diet. Symptoms subside after this change, leading to healing of the damage in the small intestine, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
7. What foods contain gluten?
- Grains: whole wheat, rye, wheat germ, cracked wheat, farro, couscous, etc.
- Grain-based products: bread, wheat-containing noodles, crackers, cookies, cakes, and some veggie burger buns.
- Others: soy sauce, some salad dressings, barley malt, beer, some wines, broth, and some bouillon.
Hill, A. (2021, November 13). What is gluten? Food and Secondary Effects. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/es/que-es-el-gluten#fuentes-alimenticias
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, August 10). Celiac disease. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/celiac-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20352220
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Tratamiento de la Enfermedad Celíaca - Niddk. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/informacion-de-la-salud/enfermedades-digestivas/enfermedad-celiaca/tratamiento