What Is Celiac Disease?
In the medical community, celiac disease is sometimes termed celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy. This autoimmune disorder exacts damage on the digestive tract, specifically that of the small intestine. When gluten-based foods are ingested by an individual with celiac disease, the small intestine experiences inflammation as a result of the ensuing tissue damage.
This intestinal impairment can impede the body’s capacity to absorb essential nutrients. This includes fat, calcium and protein. This alone can exacerbate the issue and complicate it beyond measure.
The body’s immune system is designed to safeguard it from the invasion of foreign pathogens and toxins. However, an autoimmune disorder, such as celiac disease, does quite the opposite. Essentially, individuals with this condition experience an autoimmune attack whenever signs of gluten are present in their body. The antibodies involved in this are referred to as IgA and tTG.
When inflammation arises in the small intestine, biopsies reveal damaged structures of a thread like consistency, known as villi. In the case of celiac disease, these small villi are both damaged and impaired in their ability to absorb nutrients.
The Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Various symptoms may be present in those with celiac disease. They include:
- A highly sensitive rash referred to as dermatitis herpetiformis.
- Issues within the digestive system, including pale stool, unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, gas, and bloating.
- Muscle cramping
- Bone and joint pain
- Stunted growth in children
- Nerve damage
- Mouth sores
- Missed menstrual periods
Celiac disease can increase a sufferer’s susceptibility to other conditions:
– Because of the damage often noted in the small intestine among celiac disease sufferers, calcium absorption is usually minimally sufficient. This, therefore, augments their chances of developing osteoporosis, which is correlated with poor nutritional intake.
– Celiac disease can complicate issues for pregnant women. Nutritional absorption is the hallmark of successful fetal development. In the absence of high nutritional intake, babies may be born with serious defects. Conversely, miscarriage and infertility often arise when nutritional absorption is exceedingly poor.
Children with celiac disease experience stunted growth because of nutritional issues.
In some cases, celiac disease is accompanied by the presence of other autoimmune diseases:
- Thyroid disease
- Type 1 Diabetes
Celiac disease Causes
Although 40% of the human population carries 1 or both genes encoding for celiac disease, only 1% of those carriers actually express these traits. Therefore, a prerequisite for having the disease is carrying one or both genes. When the disease actually emerges, it does so when two antibodies (mentioned above) begin attacking small intestine tissues amid the detection of gluten.
Celiac disease Tests
A number of tests are reserved to facilitate the diagnostic process for celiac disease. One of the most common concerns plaguing blood tests today is the notion of accuracy. Prior to embarking upon any diagnostic blood test, suspected sufferers of the conditions should have some form of gluten in their diet to confirm the indication of celiac disease antibodies.
One particularly common assessment is referred to as the tTG-IgA test, which is designed to measure tissue transglutaminase antibodies. The resulting indications can either be positive or negative, but these indications are not always conclusive in some cases. Mistakes, along with false negative and false positives, are possible. For example, 95% of people with the disease will develop a positive upon receiving the blood test, while 98% of those without the disease have a negative result. Furthermore, positive results can signal the presence of other autoimmune diseases. For this reason, a single blood test is not sufficient, in terms of diagnosing this condition. Additional tests are imperative.
The EMA test, in particular, is highly specific and can corroborate the presence of celiac-related antibodies if previous test fail to confirm it. However, this test is known to be relatively costly, in spite of its uncontroverted accuracy.
The Total Serum IgA Test was introduced as a means of screening a deficiency in IgA, Such a deficiency is a widely known characteristic that affects celiac disease patients. Furthermore, many attribute false positive results to this very deficiency, which impels doctors to engage in follow up tests.
To counteract the flaws in the aforementioned tests, doctors may instead screen for deamidated proteins, which may amplify detection of celiac disease antibodies. These peptides make detection far more sensitive, as well. Utilizing an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, doctors can screen for the presence of these peptides.
Genetic tests are highly beneficial, but they cannot serve as a predictor for celiac disease. While those who lack these genetic alleles will not contract the disease at all, those who have them may or may not ever have the disease. What this implies is that an individual with one or both genes should take precautionary measures upon receiving these genetic test results. But, he/she is not necessarily doomed to a gluten free existence. The test typically entails a simple cheek swab or saliva sample.
Celiac disease Treatment
A few treatment options are available for sufferers of this disease. Generally, those with celiac disease are implored not to consume gluten, whether this refers to rye, wheat, barley or oats. The exclusion of gluten based product can mitigate symptoms within a matter of days.
Over a period of 6 months, the villi structures in the small intestines may experience a marked improvement. Of course, this is a lifelong commitment because the consumption of any gluten can result in more intestinal damage. However, some individuals with this disease have experienced so much damage to their intestines, that they require the administration of nutrients through an IV.
But for many patients, a gluten free diet can dramatically improve the state of their health. This entails excluding various staples, such as pasta, cereal and much more. It is critical, however, to review food labels prior to food consumption. However, a gluten free diet can be both filling and nutritious. Various bread and pasta products can be composed from other sources, such as soy and corn. A number of gluten free products are available on the market. A dietician can facilitate the transition to a gluten free diet.