Although celiac disease is common, affecting about 1 in 133 individuals, many people are unaware of the many aspects and facets of this condition. The basic culprit in this disease is sensitivity to gluten, a protein present in wheat, barley and rye.
Although celiac disease is common, affecting about 1 in 133 individuals, many people are unaware of the many aspects and facets of this condition.
The basic culprit in this disease is sensitivity to gluten, a protein present in wheat, barley and rye.
When people are gluten sensitive or have intolerance to gluten, an untoward reaction of their immune system takes place. This reaction results in basic nutrients not being absorbed into the small intestine.
It is also associated with a variety of symptoms, including abdominal bloating and discomfort, diarrhea, fatty stools, nausea and vomiting, constipation and poor weight gain.
But celiac disease consists of more than just these symptoms. It is a very complex condition. For example, people can have celiac disease and not have any symptoms.
In one major study, 60 percent of children and 40 percent of adults who had positive blood tests for celiac disease did not have any symptoms of this condition.
There is some controversy concerning whether or not individuals who have been diagnosed with celiac disease and have no symptoms should be placed on a gluten-free diet.
A recent study showed that such a diet is helpful in asymptomatic patients. Celiac disease is also associated with a variety of other medical conditions, including those that affect the body's immune system. They include such entities as type 1 or early onset diabetes; certain types of thyroid disease; and a disease that affects the adrenal gland called Addison disease.
Celiac disease in also associated with certain syndromes such as Down and Turner syndromes.
It can also affect other parts of the body besides the gastrointestinal tract. The disease can cause short stature in children, abnormalities of dental enamel and iron deficiency anemia.
Other manifestations of celiac disease may include edema or swelling, arthritis and osteoporosis. Although not very common, there is also an increased risk of developing intestinal lymphomas.
The treatment of celiac disease may sound easy –– avoidance of gluten –– but at times, it is difficult to accomplish because gluten is present in many unsuspecting foods.
The diet may also be somewhat expensive, but eating a gluten-free diet relieves the many symptoms of this condition, making it worthwhile.
Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund in Massachusetts. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.