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How Much Do You Know About Celiac Disease?

photo of breads containing glutenWhile gluten-free diets have become a popular dieting fad, many people are unaware of how gluten truly affects those with celiac, a condition which is found in nearly 1 in 100 people throughout the world. GI North is proud to support Celiac Disease Awareness Month this May, which is the perfect time to educate yourself and your family on this complex disease.

Celiac is an autoimmune disorder triggered by an allergic reaction to gliadin, a gluten protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. In response to gluten, the immune system of someone with the disease will attack the small intestine, which leads to damage of the villi, the finger-like projections that aid in the absorption of nutrients.

Celiac can be difficult to diagnose because there are over 300 known symptoms, some of which occur outside of the digestive system; additionally, symptoms are displayed differently in children and adults. Children are more likely to experience abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, ADHD, and failure to thrive. Adults, on the other hand, typically show fewer digestive symptoms, and instead may suffer from fatigue, arthritis, osteoporosis, infertility, unexplained anemia, and a skin condition known as dermatitis herpetiformis. Some people who have the disease show no symptoms at all, yet long-term damage may still be occurring to the small intestine.

Celiac can be difficult to diagnose, because it is often mistaken for other digestive diseases, such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The disease can be diagnosed through blood tests, which test for specific antibodies, or a biopsy of the small intestine taken during an upper endoscopy. Many children are diagnosed with celiac between the ages of 6 months to 2 years of age; around the time they begin eating finger foods and snacks containing gluten.

Currently, there is no cure for celiac, and the only treatment is to adopt a gluten-free diet. This can be difficult because gluten is often found in a wide variety of foods, even those you may not expect. Wheat, barley, and rye are most commonly found in bread, pastries, pasta, salad dressings, cereal, beer, food coloring, soups and sauces.

Because those with celiac may show a wide-range of symptoms, no symptoms, or have symptoms which come and go, there are many people with the disease that are completely unaware of it. If you have chronic and unexplainable fatigue, digestive problems, skin conditions, or mouth sores, it could be wise for you to talk to your doctor about celiac; GI North offers expert care for digestive disorders and also diagnostic procedures.

For more information on celiac disease, please review the following sites:

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