December 7, 2022

Filipino Guardian

Sentinels of Filipino Free Press

Fast facts: what you need to know about celiac disease

3 min read

Medically reviewed by Ayanna Lewis, MD

November is Gluten Free Awareness Month.

Celiac disease affects an estimated 3 million people in the US – and most of them are women. So what do you need to know and do if you think you might be one of them? We reached out to gastroenterologist Ayanna Lewis, MD, director of IBD at Mount Sinai South Nassau and a member of the HealthyWomen Women’s Health Advisory Council, to learn more about this autoimmune disease.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease (pronounced See-Lee-Ak) is a chronic inflammatory disease. It occurs when your immune system reacts to gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye.

What happens if someone with celiac disease eats gluten?

If you have celiac disease and eat gluten, your small intestine will have an immune response that can damage its lining. This can lead to malabsorption, which means your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs.

There is no cure for celiac disease, but it can be treated through dietary changes.

Who Gets Celiac Disease?

Anyone of any age can get celiac disease. But celiac disease is more common among white Americans than other racial groups, and as we mentioned above, women are more likely to be diagnosed than men.

What are Celiac Disease Symptoms?

Most symptoms of celiac disease are GI related. These include:

Stomach painDiarrheaA bloated stomach (“celiac belly”)gas constipationnauseavomiting”celiac poo,” which is watery diarrhea that smells bad

Non-classic celiac symptoms can also occur. These include:

tirednessa rash that itches and blistersmouth ulcersheadache

What is the difference between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity?

Gluten intolerance can overlap with celiac disease symptoms. For example, if you are sensitive to gluten, you may experience GI symptoms such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. You may be able to eat a certain amount of gluten before experiencing symptoms. But a person with celiac disease will have a reaction after eating just a crumb of a gluten-containing food. Even if you only have a gluten sensitivity, your symptoms will depend on the amount of gluten you’ve eaten and how long you’ve been eating it. In someone with celiac disease, symptoms can last for days, and the inflammation can be detected in blood tests for weeks afterwards.

Are There Medical Complications Associated With Celiac Disease?

Many Patients Are Wondering: Can Celiac Disease Kill You? The answer is that it can’t kill you directly, but it can lead to a number of serious health problems if left undiagnosed and untreated, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Not getting enough nutrients or being malnourished is a major risk when celiac disease is severe. When your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to keep you healthy, you can suffer from complications like low red blood cells (called anemia), softening of bones, decreased spleen function, joint pain, and nervous system problems like numbness and tingling in your body.

Can celiac disease cause blood in the stool?

Blood in the stool is not a common symptom of celiac disease. If you have blood in your stool, tell your doctor right away so they can determine the cause.

How is celiac disease diagnosed?

Diagnosing celiac disease begins with blood tests. If your HCP sees signs of celiac disease on the blood tests, they will often order an endoscopy, which is a procedure that uses a small camera to allow your HCP to look at your small intestine and take a sample of tissue to determine if if it is damaged.

How is celiac disease treated?

If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, the only treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. This means that you have to be careful when choosing food for daily preparation and when eating in the restaurant. The good news: There are many delicious, healthy foods that you can still eat. Plus, you’ll feel relieved once gluten is finally out of your life. This is a win-win situation.

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