Celiac disease, also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy or celiac sprue, is a multi-system and digestive disorder. Multisystem in this context means that it affects not just one organ but a couple of other organs. For example, when a person has celiac disease, his immune system harms the small intestine. Celiac disease, a complex immune-mediated disorder, is caused when gluten is consumed by those intolerant.

Gluten is a complex protein found in certain grains such as wheat, rye and barley.

Causes of Celiac Disease:

 As mentioned, celiac disease is a complex immune-mediated disorder. This means that the disease arises out of the fact that the body is trying to protect us. The immune system must protect the body from a foreign entity. When a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, the immune system becomes active and starts attacking the intestine lining.

When the intestines are attacked, they become inflamed as the villi, i.e., the hair-like structures within the intestines, become damaged. The villi palya has the role of absorbing nutrients from the food. When a person has celiac disease, their body loses the ability to absorb nutrients and hence, they can become severely malnourished if the condition is left untreated.

Celiac Disease Symptoms:

The most common symptoms of celiac disease  and symptoms of gluten allergy are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Weight Loss
  • Pale stools
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis or Aphthous Ulcers
  • Anaemia
  • Hepatitis
  • Muscle cramps, bone and dental pain and joint pain.
  • Growth problems in children
  • Depression
  • Tingling sensation in the limbs.

These are the most common celiac disease symptoms in adults and the celiac disease symptoms in females.

Celiac Disease: top myths and Facts

1- MYTH: Celiac disease is just an allergy.

    FACT: Contrary to popular belief that celiac disease is just a simple allergic reaction, celiac disease is a real autoimmune disorder. This confusion arises because, similar to an allergic reaction, the invasion of a foreign object also triggers celiac disease.

2- MYTH: Gluten sensitivity and celiac diseases are the same.

    FACT: Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are not the same since there is no intestinal damage in the former. Despite the similar symptoms for both cases, people who do not have celiac disease but are gluten sensitive will test negative for celiac disease antibodies. Still, in their case, malnourishment will not occur

3- MYTH: Only Children get infected by celiac disease.

    FACT: All age groups are liable to get celiac disease. Of course, celiac symptoms and the condition is more common in children, but celiac disease symptoms are present even in adults, both male and female.

4- MYTH: If your symptoms do not resemble your family members, you do not have celiac disease.

    FACT: Celiac disease symptoms in females might vary from the males. Celiac disease symptoms in adults might vary from children. Hence, there is no one symptom to determine the condition and the best way to determine the presence of celiac disease is to get a medical examination.

5- MYTH: Celiac disease has no diagnosis.

   FACT: Like most diseases, celiac disease can be diagnosed. The most common method for diagnosis is via a blood test screening for antibodies of celiac disease called tTG-IgA. To get a hundred per cent confirmation, a biopsy of the small intestine will be recommended by your physician. Genetic testing may also be performed since celiac disease may be hereditary.

6- MYTH: Celiac disease is not that big of a deal.

  FACT: The symptoms of celiac disease can be excruciating and hamper an individual’s daily activities. Moreover, if not treated, celiac disease can lead to severe malnutrition. So celiac disease is a big deal.

7- MYTH: Celiac Disease is a rare disease.

    FACT: Celiac disease is more common than you think. Out of 100 people, one will be a patient of celiac disease. However, many times, the condition is often left undiagnosed. 

And many people go on for years with the symptoms, but they do not seek medical help.

8- MYTH: Celiac disease can be permanently cured.

  FACT:  Celiac disease is not curable. A person can only relieve his symptoms by not consuming a diet that contains a high amount of gluten.

Celiac disease treatment:

As per the current level of scientific advancement, the only way to treat celiac disease 

By following a celiac disease diet, i.e., a gluten-free diet. This diet must be strictly followed because the smallest amount of gluten ingested can trigger intestinal damage.

People suffering from gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are advised to stay away from any form of gluten food, such as beer and bread since they are made from wheat, barley or rye.

Consider contacting Dr Nivedita if you know anyone who has Celiac disease. Dr Nivedita Pandey is a Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist based in New Delhi.