11, May 2021
Every May we get the word out about the autoimmune disorder called celiac disease.
When a person who has celiac disease consumes gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley, or rye — the immune system responds by attacking the small intestines and preventing the absorption of those nutrients into the body.
Adherence to a strict, no-gluten diet helps deal with the disease process as there is no cure.
During Celiac Awareness Month, it is crucial for people to hear about this as many complications may occur from having the disease, including infertility and osteoporosis, to name a few.
In celiac disease, the inner linings of the small intestine are damaged through an autoimmune mechanism, thereby reducing the rate of nutrient absorption from food.
As the immune system fights against gluten, the small, finger-like projections in the small intestine called villi are damaged. Villi facilitate the absorption of nutrients from food. Erosion of villi makes them flattened, causing trouble absorbing nutrients.
Though genetic, celiac disease may develop anytime in a person’s lifetime after ingestion of gluten-containing food or medicine.
Many people have no detectable symptoms and are completely unaware they may have celiac disease.
Some may have minor signs such as bloating, weight loss, indigestion, diarrhea, muscle spasms and abdominal discomfort.
Poor absorption of nutrients from the small intestines can cause iron deficiency anemia, arthritis, bone loss, osteoporosis, numbness in the hands and feet, abnormal menstrual periods, infertility or recurrent miscarriage, and many more.
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Your doctor most often will order a blood test known as anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody, IgA, when celiac disease is suspected.
However, the definitive test is to do a biopsy of the small intestine to look for inflammatory cell damage to the intestinal villi signaling an autoimmune reaction.
Roughly 1 in 133 Americans has celiac disease, affecting men and women of all ages and races.
Of the roughly 3 million people living in the US with the disease, only 5% know that they have it.
So, the awareness of consumption of gluten-free diets to eliminate their symptoms is very important.
This awareness helps educate the public about gluten-free foods and encourages scanning through appropriate labeling on food items.
It is quite a challenge to abstain from foods like bread, cake and even pizza. But greater awareness of celiac disease has led to the development of hundreds of gluten-free food products, along with cookbook recipes describing how to bake cookies using nut or rice flours.
Watch out for things labeled “seasonings” on ingredient lists that may contain wheat starch, wheat flour, wheat crumbs and hydrolyzed wheat protein.
Together, we need to play an active role in spreading the awareness of celiac disease to change the perspective of the disease process.
Every day, researchers are working for a better understanding of celiac disease and its various manifestations.
In addition, ongoing research is underway to explore potential drug treatments for celiac disease. Consult your doctor if any of the above symptoms sound like something you are experiencing. By being diagnosed and changing your diet, you just might be able to start living a more comfortable life.
Dr. Mitra is accepting new patients and can be reached at 321-622-6222 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Call now to assess your risk of developing celiac disease.
Dr. Sue Mitra and her staff strive to offer their patients the best care, advice and services available in the medical field with the goal to keep patient healthy & happy.
Dr. Sue Mitra is board certified in international medicine. She is seen here with a Cologuard, which is a noninvasive colon cancer screening test. (Photo by: Tim Shortt/Florida Today)