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It’s estimated that 83% of people who have Celiac disease are undiagnosed… or misdiagnosed with other conditions. Could you be one of those undiagnosed? With May being Celiac Disease Awareness month, now is a good time to learn more about the disease that could affect you or someone you love.

Celiac disease is a serious, genetic autoimmune disorder triggered by the consumption of gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When a person with Celiac eats gluten, the body begins to attack a part of the small intestine called villi. Damaged villi cannot properly absorb nutrients into the bloodstream. Undiagnosed (and untreated), Celiac Disease can lead to malnourishment and many other problems including some cancers, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, infertility and the onset of other autoimmune diseases.

Infographic_Celiac Disease at a GlanceWho Gets Celiac Disease?

One out of every 133 Americans has Celiac disease, about 1% of the U.S. population. Celiac disease is a genetic disorder, meaning that it runs in families. Sometimes stressful events such as pregnancy, surgery, infection, or severe emotional distress can trigger the onset of the disease in those who are genetically predisposed to it.

How Is Celiac Disease Diagnosed? 

Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose, given the wide variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms. To determine if a patient has Celiac disease, a physician can screen with a simple antibody blood test, sometimes combined with a genetic test. If a Celiac diagnosis is still suspected, the doctor will likely perform a biopsy of the small intestine for confirmation.

Common Celiac Disease Symptoms

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis
  • Infertility
  • Numbness in Legs
  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint Pain
  • Osteopenia
  • Bloating
  • Dental Enamel Defects
  • Pale Sores in Mouth
  • Osteoporosis
  • Delayed Growth
  • Fatigue Migraines
  • Weight Loss
  • Depression
  • Gas
  • Nausea

Treatment of Celiac Disease: A Gluten-Free Diet

Currently, the only treatment for Celiac disease is strict adherence to a lifelong gluten-free diet. There are no medications or surgeries that can cure this autoimmune disease. Eating even tiny amounts of gluten can trigger intestinal damage. Eliminating gluten from the diet can be overwhelming at first, but with some practice and extra effort, people with Celiac disease can eat delicious food that tastes just as good as their gluten-containing counterparts. The good news is that with a gluten free diet, someone with Celiac Disease can heal, the villi can re-grow and much of the damage to the body can be reversed.

Interested in learning more? Check out the Celiac Disease Foundation and Beyond Celiac.

Sources:

The Celiac Disease Foundation https://celiac.org/

Beyond Celiac https://www.beyondceliac.org/

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

Reviewed by: Melissa Rupp, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fulton County.

 

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