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What is Celiac Disease?

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Gluten?  Say what? We’re talking about it all the time these days, but what is gluten? Why can some people eat it and other can’t? What’s the buzz about gluten-free diets?  What’s the scoop about Celiac Disease?  What are the pros and cons about going-gluten in their diet, or avoiding-gluten all-together?  All great questions, right?  Today’s blog is the third in a five-part series on all-things-gluten.

If you have Celiac Disease, then you must follow a gluten-free diet. But what is this disease? Having this disease is not like having a food allergy, where if you were allergic to food that contain grains you’d have itchy or watery eyes, or might have trouble breathing.

Celiac Disease is an auto immune disorder that reacts when gluten is ingested. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye and barley. When someone with this disease eats foods that contain gluten, their body overreacts to the protein and damages their villi. Villi are tiny finger-like projections found along the wall of the small intestine. They specialize in the absorption of fatty acids and glycerol into the blood stream. When the villi are injured, the small intestine cannot properly absorb nutrients from food. Eventually, this can lead to being malnourished. Some symptoms include: stomach pain, diarrhea, gas, constipation, nausea, anemia, bone and/or joint pain, weight loss, heartburn. 

Not everyone with Celiac Disease will have these symptoms. And some people have no problems at all, which makes diagnosis very difficult. Most people with this condition never know they have it. As few as 20% of people with the disease ever get a proper diagnosis. Physicians use 2 blood tests with specific targets to help determine whether you have it or not.

There are no medications that treat Celiac Disease. You’ll need to go on a strict gluten-free diet. After you’ve been on a gluten-free diet for a few weeks, you should start to feel better, as your small intestine begins to heal.

I acknowledge that this image is borrowed from the Flourish Clinic. on August 7, 2017. Thank you!

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