About Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is a health condition of the small intestine in which you cannot eat gluten. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, the immune system, which is supposed to help protect the body against disease, reacts by harming the cells of the lining of the small intestine and also may harm other parts of the body, such as the skin, bones or brain (nervous system).
What Are the Possible Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
People with celiac disease may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Gas, belly bloating, and pain that does not go away
- Diarrhea (loose stool) or constipation (hard stool or trouble passing stool) that does not go away
- Pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Tiredness or low energy levels
Having these symptoms does not mean that you have celiac disease, just as some patients with the disease may not show any symptoms at all.
If you think you have celiac disease, do not get rid of gluten from your diet until your doctor has tested you and tells you to do so.
How Is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
A correct diagnosis of celiac disease is very important. Testing options include a blood test or an endoscopy. A blood test is the most common test because it is easy and can provide a clear answer. An endoscopy is performed to obtain a small piece of tissue (biopsy) from your small intestine to see if there is damage stopping your body from taking in nutrients, caused by celiac disease. Endoscopy is the best way to show that you have celiac disease and the best way to make sure your intestine heals the right way.
How Do We Treat Celiac Disease?
The gluten-free diet (GFD) is the only treatment for celiac disease. In many patients with celiac disease, even a small amount of gluten is enough to cause harm, even though the patient may not feel symptoms. A life-long GFD will help protect your small intestine, and may be able to undo damage that already has happened. Changing to a GFD may feel like a lot at first. Do not be afraid to reach out for help and support from your gastroenterologist, dietician or local support group. Educating yourself and knowing what foods you can have will be the key to staying gluten-free and feeling healthy.
While we all know that gluten is a protein found mainly in wheat, barley and rye, gluten is also found in products patients use each day, such as:
- Soy sauce
- Salad dressings
- Lipstick or make-up