Myths and Facts About Celiac Disease

People with celiac disease have digestive symptoms that may see similar to inflammatory bowel disease or even irritable bowel syndrome. But celiac is its own condition that occurs when your immune system sees gluten -- a protein found in wheat, rye and barley -- as the enemy. 

If you have celiac disease, consuming gluten does damage to the small intestine and can prevent absorption of nutrients. This results in digestive distress, skin reactions, low energy, weight loss, and other health complications.

Celiac disease affects approximately 1 in every 100 people, and it’s estimated that a person with the condition lives for 6-10 years with symptoms before getting an accurate diagnosis.

At Digestive Disorders Associates, we can help people with symptoms that suggest celiac disease to diagnose their problem and get on a strict gluten-free diet to experience remission and good health.

Celiac is not an allergy

You may hear celiac disease referred to as an “allergy” to gluten. It’s not.  Although a foreign substance, namely gluten, triggers an immune reaction in people with celiac, the results are different than the inflammation and irritation that’s experienced with an allergy. Celiac disease causes real damage to the small intestine and has long-term implications for your health.

Celiac disease is not gluten sensitivity

It’s almost trendy now to have an intolerance to gluten, and you may very well have a sensitivity to this protein that causes you temporary discomfort, such as bloating or gas. But if you have celiac disease, you may have discomfort -- but you definitely have damage occurring to your small intestine every time you eat gluten.

Celiac affects all ages

Celiac disease can be diagnosed in young children, but adults can also manifest the condition. Sometimes a triggering event in the environment or a traumatic experience (a serious illness or pregnancy) can cause celiac symptoms to show up in adults.

Regardless of your age, symptoms of celiac disease include abdominal pain, dermatitis herpetiformis – a skin rash – and diarrhea. Children with celiac may fail to thrive and have delayed growth. Adults with celiac that’s not treated can experience iron-deficiency anemia, infertility, depression, fatigue, and bloating.

There’s no textbook case

Symptoms of celiac disease are quite varied. One person with the disease may have serious symptoms while another in the same family has symptoms that are so mild, they’re unaware they have the condition. 

If someone in your family has celiac disease, we can test your blood to see if you carry the gene for the condition too, especially if symptoms start to occur. You may need a test every few years because the disease can show up at any time. If you present with symptoms of celiac disease, we can do a capsule endoscopy to evaluate the health of your small intestine and evaluate if damage has occurred.

Celiac disease is serious

Celiac disease makes it hard for your body to absorb nutrients. When someone with celiac consumes gluten, it causes damage to the villi of the intestine. These villi are responsible for nutrient absorption, so if left untreated, you may experience osteoporosis, thyroid disease, cancer, and other autoimmune diseases as a result of celiac.

You must remove all gluten from your diet

There is no cure for celiac disease. But if you avoid gluten in food entirely, your symptoms can go into remission. In reality, food may still have trace amounts of gluten – up to 20 parts per million (ppm), an amount researchers believe people with celiac can still tolerate.

If you do eat out, ask carefully about a restaurant’s kitchen procedures, and don’t necessarily trust that “gluten-free” offerings are 100% safe for you, as a celiac sufferer, to consume. Cross-contamination with gluten-containing products is possible even if it’s a well-meaning restaurant.

If you have digestive symptoms that suggest celiac disease, don’t hesitate to contact us at Digestive Disorders Associates. We can diagnose your condition and confirm that a strict gluten-free diet is in order. And if you don’t have celiac disease, we can help run further tests to determine the cause of your digestive distress. Call our office in Annapolis, Maryland, or book an evaluation using the online tool. 

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