Celiac Disease 101

In this section, you will find the information you need to follow a gluten-free diet. With a weekly gluten-free menu, support group lists, and FAQs about Glutino products, Glutino is a trusted resource for gluten-free living.

 

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley.

When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi—the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine. Villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food one eats.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms vary from person to person, which can make celiac disease even more challenging to diagnose. These symptoms will occur after eating foods containing gluten.  In some cases, the symptoms are severe, while others don’t even notice the symptoms.  Symptoms include:

  • Digestive problems:
    • Weight loss
    • Abdominal swelling and bloating
    • Abdominal cramps
    • Diarrhea
    • Constipation
    • Vomiting
    • Muscle cramps
    • Joint pain
    • Skin rash
    • Fatigue

Celiac disease has been linked to other health-related problems including:

    • Osteoporosis
    • Infertility
    • Miscarriages
    • Anemia
    • Type 1 Diabetes
    • Depression
    • Thyroid Disease

What are the causes of celiac disease?

Celiac disease is both a disease of malabsorption – meaning nutrients are not absorbed properly – and an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. Celiac disease is genetic, meaning it runs in families. Sometimes the disease is triggered—or becomes active for the first time—after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress.

How is it diagnosed?

If you suspect you have celiac disease, consult your doctor as only he or she can confirm the diagnosis. Your physician will review your medical history with you, and ask about family members who have celiac disease, and the symptoms you have been experiencing and the length of time. Next, they will do a thorough physical exam.  Then your physician will likely request a blood test to check levels of specific antibodies related to celiac disease.  Sometimes a physician will also do an endoscopy and test a small piece of the small intestine to determine if there was any damage to villi lining the small intestine.   After the examination and tests, the doctor will recommend a gluten-free diet be followed.  It is important for a patient to strictly adhere to this gluten-free diet. Within a few days, symptoms should subside and any damage done to the small intestine will begin healing.

What is the treatment?

The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. There are still plenty of delicious foods you can eat including rice, potato, corn, tapioca, quinoa, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs and much more. Common foods to avoid when eating gluten-free include, but are not limited to wheat, durum, wheat germ, semolina, rye, triticale, barley, spelt, breaded or coated foods, pasta, breads and soy sauce.

It is important to remain on a gluten-free diet for the rest of your life completely eliminating gluten from your diet. A person with celiac disease cannot digest gluten, so if you continue to eat it the damage to your intestine continues and prevents it from healing properly.

What is the difference between
celiac disease, a wheat allergy, and gluten intolerance?

While the “treatment” of following a gluten-free diet is the same for all three conditions, they are a bit different. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease;  a person cannot digest gluten and the immune system responds by destroying the villi that line the small intestine. When a person with a wheat allergy digests wheat/gluten, symptoms include wheezing, lip swelling, stomach pains, gas, diarrhea or a rash, but there is no damage to the villi.  Similar to lactose intolerance, symptoms of gluten intolerance include gas, stomach pains, and diarrhea but there is no damage to the small intestine.