Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people. It is triggered by consuming gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, the immune system responds by damaging the finger-like villi of the small intestine.
Celiac disease affects 1 in 100 people but very often remains un-diagnosed, causing serious health complications such as osteoporosis, anemia, infertility, gastrointestinal and neurological problems. It has been estimated that in the US two and a half million people have un-diagnose celiac disease.
Undiagnosed celiac disease also increases the risk of deveoping other autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis or dermatitis herpetiformis. It is therefore vital for people who have symptoms of the disease to get tested.
Symptoms to watch out for:
The classic gastrointestinal symptoms of celiac disease include:
- Excess gas
- Abdominal pain
- Lactose intolerance
Other signs indicating the need to test for celiac disease:
- Osteoporosis / osteopenia
- Chronic fatique
- Failure to thrive (in children)
- Unexplained weight loss (in adults)
- Vitamin deficiency
- Anxiety / depression
- Headaches / migraines
- Lack of muscle coordination
- Unexplained infertility / miscarriage
- Brain Fog /
- Recurrent mounth canker sores / oral ulcers (aphthous stomatitis)
- 1st degree relative with celiac disease
Testing for celiac disease
People with celiac disease who eat gluten have higher than normal levels of ceratin antibodies in their blood. These antibodies are produced by the immune system because it views gluten as an enemy. If you have been on a gluten free diet the blood antibody testing will not give a correct result.
- Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies
- Total IgA
- IgA Endomysial Antibody
- Deaminated gliadin peptide
If the above blood tests indicate celiac disease, diagnosis can be confirmed via a small intestinal biopsy (during a gastroscopy).
If diagnosis of celiac disease is not certain you could also have a genetic testing done to test if you carry the HLA DQ2 and/or DQ8 gene. If the genetic test is negative you can be certain that you do not have celiac disease.
Genetic testing is also often offered to family members of people with celiac disease to evaluate the risk of developing celiac disease
The only treatment that is available for celiac disease is life long strict avoidance of gluten. If you get diagnosed with celiac disease it is crucial to get educated on the hidden sources of gluten as gluten is hidden in soy sauce, processed meat, burgers, candies, make-up etc.
Take home message
- If you have symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome talk to your doctor about getting tested for celiac disease.
- Check out the list of signs indicating the need for getting tested for celiac disease. The long list of conditions associated with celiac disease might surprise you and getting tested might help you get to the root cause of your health problems!
- If you have celiac disease, even small amounts of gluten trigger an autoimmune response in the small intestine, damaging the villi that help the body absorb vital nutrients and silently damaging your health.
1. Celiac Disease Foundation – Screening, https://celiac.org/celiac-disease/understanding-celiac-disease-2/diagnosing-celiac-disease/screening/