Fight Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is triggered by an autoimmune reaction that occurs in the small intestine in response to consuming gluten, a protein commonly found in wheat, barley, and rye products. Over time, this repeated reaction can damage the walls of the small intestine, which could also lead to micronutrient malabsorption.

The genetic contribution, as well as certain infant feeding practices, gastrointestinal infections and intestinal bacteria, is thought to contribute to the formation of this disease. Moreover, such a condition can also flare up after surgery, pregnancy and childbirth, viral infections, or periods of intense emotional stress.

Celiac disease is likely to be more common in people with a concurrent family history of celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis, type 1 diabetes, Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, autoimmune thyroid disease, microscopic colitis as well as Addison’s disease.

Signs and symptoms

The digestive signs of celiac disease can include chronic diarrhea lasting more than two weeks, fatigue, weight loss, bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or constipation. Other signs can include anemia which is usually due to iron deficiency; loss of bone density; an itchy, blistering rash that usually occurs on the elbows, knees, chest, scalp, or buttocks; mouth ulcers; headache; as well as numbness or a tingling sensation in the feet and hands; as well as balance and cognitive impairment; joint pain; or reduced function of the spleen.

In children, celiac disease can also manifest as stunted growth, stunted growth, pale and smelly stools, damage to tooth enamel, short stature, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder , learning disabilities or poor muscle coordination and seizures.

If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, lactose intolerance, lymphoma or cancer of the small intestine, as well as other disorders of the nervous system.

There are two blood tests that can help diagnose celiac disease, mainly serologic tests, which look for high levels of certain antibody proteins in the blood, which can indicate an autoimmune reaction to gluten, as well as genetic testing for them. human leukocyte antigens (HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8), which can be used to rule out the presence of celiac disease.

If gluten is eaten regularly by a person with celiac disease, they will be at greater risk of developing complications such as osteoporosis and cancer.

If celiac disease is likely, an endoscopy with a small tissue biopsy to analyze damage to the villi in the small intestine, as well as a skin biopsy in the presence of dermatitis herpetiformis, is also arranged. It’s important to get tested for celiac disease before trying a gluten-free diet, as eliminating gluten from your diet could cause the results of the aforementioned tests to appear falsely normal.

Is there a cure?

There is no cure for celiac disease yet, but for most people, following a strict gluten-free diet throughout life can help manage symptoms and promote gut healing. Additionally, other treatment options include the use of steroid drugs that help reduce inflammation in the small intestine caused by the immune system.

Foods that contain wheat, barley or rye – the main sources of gluten – should be avoided. Products containing gluten include bread, pasta, cereals, cookies, crackers, cakes, pastries, pies, sauces and gravies. Even if one consumes only a small amount of gluten, such as a spoonful of pasta, or if there is cross-contamination from foods containing gluten, one may experience unpleasant intestinal symptoms and damage to the stomach. small intestine, even in the absence of symptoms. If gluten is eaten regularly by a person with celiac disease, they will be at greater risk of developing complications such as osteoporosis and cancer.

It is important to always check food labels and know what to look out for. Many foods, especially processed or ready-to-eat foods, contain gluten in additives, such as malt flavor and modified food starch.

Gluten can also be found in some non-food products like cosmetics, postage stamps, and some medications. Many natural foods, like meat products, vegetables, eggs, dairy, potatoes, and rice, are naturally gluten-free, so you can always include them in your diet.

With regard to other foods, it is important to ensure that the product is certified gluten-free on its label or to avoid products for which it is not certain whether or not a product contains gluten.

In order to avoid cross-contamination, gluten-free foods should be prepared using different utensils, such as wooden spoons, hot plates, cutting boards, toasters and cleaning cloths, ideally in using a separate section of the kitchen dedicated to the preparation of gluten-free foods. .

For some items, such as stainless steel cutlery and pots, ceramic plates and glasses, a good cleaning with soapy water will suffice to remove all traces of gluten. It can be convenient for the whole household to go without gluten to minimize the risk of cross contamination and accidental gluten ingestion, especially when there are children with celiac disease.

Sometimes celiac disease can make a person more vulnerable to infection, therefore, additional vaccines or boosters need to be taken to prevent such illnesses. In addition, particularly during the first months after diagnosis, vitamin and mineral supplementation may be recommended to compensate for any malabsorption that may have occurred before the diagnosis was made. These can include iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and folate. Once the intestinal damage has subsided, the deficiencies have been corrected, and the diet is appropriate, regular supplementation may no longer be necessary.

One in 140 people with celiac disease will develop refractory celiac disease, where symptoms persist despite a strict gluten-free diet. The exact cause is still unknown.

Georgiana Mifsud Bonnici is a doctor and Antonella Grima is a doctor and registered nutritionist. For updates on nutrition, lifestyle changes and holistic health follow the following blogs www.facebook.com/be.heart.healthy and www.facebook.com/antonella.grima.nutritionist/.

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