Celiac Disease

Winning the War Against Celiac Disease

Overview of Celiac Disease

Celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy are medically relevant terms for a disease widely known simply as “celiac disease”. This disease is characterized by progressive damage of the small intestine. As an autoimmune condition, the body essentially counteracts the presence of tissues that are native to the body, instead of centralizing its effort on foreign invaders.

Generally, when a sufferer eats gluten in some form, the body identifies the gluten as a pathogen, and subsequently, destroys tissue in the small intestine with the aid of two specific antibodies. This can be exceedingly dangerous, considering that it constricts nutritional absorption and gives rise to many secondary diseases.

Typically, when the immune system makes note of an alien substance, whether this refers to bacteria, toxins or viruses, it launches an attack against them by correctly identifying them as foreign substances. However, an autoimmune disorder completely distorts this process and renders the body incapable of functioning at full capacity.

Celiac disease causes severe damage of the villi of the small intestine, which are small, thread like appendages designed to absorb nutrients. Because of this, sufferers experience from severe malnourishment. The antibodies collectively known as IgA and tTG are wholly responsible for this.

Winning the War Against Celiac Disease

The Symptoms

Symptoms can present themselves in a number of ways among sufferers of this condition.

  • Dermatitis herpetiformis is a rash characterized by itchiness, extreme discomfort and high sensitivity.
  • The digestive tract incurs the greatest toll, thereby generating symptoms such as bloating, gas, pain and more.
  • An iron deficiency, or anemia, is a common trait among sufferers.
  • Muscle pain is indicative of poor nutrition.
  • Bone and joint issues often ensue, due to poor nutritional intake.
  • Children experience impaired growth.
  • Seizing may occur
  • Nerves are often damaged and generate a tingling sensation.
  • Mouth develops ulcers
  • The menstrual cycle develops irregularities.

Many secondary conditions arise among those with this disease.

  • As noted, celiac disease inhibits the assimilation of nutrients. As a result, calcium, iron, protein, and fat absorption experience a decline and the effects translate pervasively to a number of other systematic and physiological issues in the body. This results from villi damage.
  • Pregnant women with this disease can incur a number of risks for their unborn children, including defects and miscarriage. Some women suffer from infertility because of this condition.
  • Children, in particular, do not undergo normal physical development because this disease impairs nutritional intake

Sometimes, celiac disease and coexist with other autoimmune disorders:

  • Conditions associated with the thyroid, including thyroid disease.
  • Type I Diabetes

Celiac Disease Causes

Contrary to popular belief, not all carriers of the celiac disease gene suffer from the condition. Furthermore, this disease does not always emerge in childhood, and can be triggered later in one’s life. Almost 50% of the human population is a carrier for either one or two of the genes that encode for this condition. In spite of this, merely 1% of this segment of the population expresses the gene and develops the disease symptoms noted above.

Tests

Celiac disease is diagnosed with the aid of blood tests, and subsequently, more invasive methods to confirm the presence of the disease. Blood tests are necessary, but not sufficient in terms of arriving to diagnosis. One of the reasons why this is the case is because many such blood tests merely detect the presence of antibodies, but the presence of antibodies is not necessarily indicative of the disease.

Prior to having a test done, however, it is critical to have regularly consumed gluten because gluten triggers the release of antibodies associated with such autoimmune disorders. One of the most widely administered celiac disease blood tests is the tTG-IgA test, which serves to identify antibodies of the tissue transglutaminase variety.

Of course, some tests give rise to false positives and false negatives. 95% of people who have the condition correctly display a positive indication of these antibodies, while 98% of those without it correctly indicate a negative result. Hence, there is a small margin for error. Typically, when the test confirms a positive result, follow up tests are administered.

Another test that is commonly used in the celiac disease community is known as an EMA test, which has a high level of specificity and can serve as an additional assessment after a traditional blood test. While expensive, it is very precise in its detection methods.

The total Serum IgA Test can serve as a detector for low IgA levels, which is a general symptom of this disease. This deficiency, however, is not exclusive to the disease. Clearly, the previously mentioned tests are not impervious to error, hence the introduction of the deamidated peptide test, which uses enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays to look for celiac-related peptides. This highly sensitive test aids significantly in detection of the disease.

Genetic tests, in particular, are not diagnostic tools. Merely carrying a celiac disease gene does not predict the emergence of that disease. It is very much possible to carry the gene and never produce symptoms of the disease itself. Those who are revealed to be carries for this disease, as 40% of the population is, are encouraged to have additional tests done to rule out the condition.

Treatment

Universally, the best panacea for this illness is to exclude gluten from the diet altogether. The consumption of gluten based products, such as wheat and rye, can cause intestinal inflammation and progressive intestinal damage.

In essence, the consumption of gluten can impair nutrient absorption and this can transmute into more threatening conditions. Therefore, the elimination of gluten is recommended as one of the primary treatments for this condition, as it can permit healing of the intestinal tissue and eradicate many symptoms.

In severe cases, an IV must be used to infuse the patient with nutrients. Furthermore, a gluten free diet must be pursued indefinitely for anyone with the condition. Luckily, various gluten free products exist on the market and can serve as apt replacements for traditionally consumed gluten products.

This includes gluten free cookies, pasta, pancakes, bread, rice and much more. In essence, gluten free meals can be just as balanced as gluten-based meals, if not more nutritious in select cases. Dieticians are available to help suffers adapt to a gluten free lifestyle.

In terms of sustaining a comfortable lifestyle, it is important to find the right dietary supplements, specifically those that cater to autoimmune diseases.

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