There are many types of people who have allergies or are sensitive to certain foods. One of these allergies or sensitivities is gluten. Those who are sensitive to gluten are diagnosed with Celiac disease, which has a vast history that makes it a commonly known condition. But how exactly did Celiac disease come to be? Here is everything you need to know about the disease, from its origins down to how you can treat it.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is also called sprue or coeliac, which is an immune reaction after eating anything that contains gluten, a protein you can find in wheat, barley, or rye.
It's an allergic response to anything gluten. If you have celiac disease and eat something that contains the ingredient, it would end up damaging a lining found in your small intestine because of an immune response that would attack the organ.
So, how serious is this? Once the small intestine is damaged, you won't be able to properly absorb nutrients, leading to fatal consequences in the long run.
The autoimmune disorder affects 1 in 100 people around the world. 2.5 million Americans aren't diagnosed with this disease, with the effects having long-term consequences. It's the reason why knowing about the history and causes is significant, so that you can find the symptom early and take action before it gets worse.
Celiac Disease in the 19th Century
Celiac disease has been dated back to the second century, written in Greek by a physician named Aretaeus of Cappadocia. These writings were then translated into English by Francis Adams in 1856, which is one of the chapters in "The Coeliac Diathesis." The word Coeliac derives from a Greek word "koiliakos," meaning to "suffer in one's bowels." And that is how the first few symptoms of the Celiac disease were described, focusing more on weight loss and pallor, which affected children and adults.
In 1888, British Pediatrician Samuel Gee wrote a detailed description of Celiac disease, named "The Coeliac Affection." He described this condition as chronic indigestion that can affect anyone of all ages. And because of the common symptoms of indigestion, these signs of celiac disease were overlooked and wrongly diagnosed. Gee mentions that having a proper diet is important, which is the best (and only) cure. The studies of celiac disease during Samuel Gee's time focused more on children who suffered from it, as this age group would respond better to dietary treatment as compared to adults who had the disease.
Celiac Disease in the 20th Century
During the years 1908 to 1924, pediatricians started to study and note that fats were better tolerated as compared to carbohydrates, where primary sources of carbs (such as cereals, potatoes and bread) were slowly introduced in a matter of months or years. There was even a banana diet coined by Haas, which was used by many until a gluten-free diet was introduced.
It was only during the years between 1939 and 1945 (during the Second World War) that treatment for celiac was discovered. By 1946, Dutch pediatrician Professor Willem Dicke demonstrated how children benefited from excluding wheat, oat flours, and rye from a diet, replaced with rice or maize flours instead. The discovery was made because of a shortage of wheat grain in Holland. Dicke noticed that children fared better without wheat. But once it came back for regular consumption, children's development was deteriorated.
In 1954, UK Physician John W. Paulley recognized abnormalities in the linings of the upper part of the bowels after taking a few samples during his previous operations. This discovery was then confirmed as the most significant feature to diagnose the celiac condition. It was then noted that patients who followed gluten-free diets would have their linings return to normal.
In 1956, Dr. Margot Shimer created a safe method to perform oral biopsies on the linings of upper bowels to diagnose the condition accurately. And in 1957, Colonel Crosby designed the Crosby Capsule, a flexible tube that makes biopsies much easier. It then created an easier way to diagnose and treat celiac, which accelerated the understanding and further studies of the disorder.
In 1958, Cyrus L. Rubin created the connection of celiac disease in both children and adults. Two years later, physicians then connected a skin condition called dermatitis herpetiformis with gluten enteropathy (sensitivity to gluten).
After the 1960s, not much significant progress was made as to understand how gluten would cause fatal effects on the small intestines. But come the 1990s, Detlef Schuppan created a blood test to diagnose celiac disease easily, though still needing a biopsy test.
Gluten-free diets and meals were then made, with food labeling laws creating standards for packaging and dishes with the label of "no detectable gluten" for those following a gluten-free diet.
Celiac Disease in the Present Day
Fast forward to today, and the gluten-free food and beverage industry continues to grow, with medical professionals and celebrities raving about its many benefits. Studies of celiac disease continue, in hopes of finding a form of prevention or permanent cure.
The primary (and only) cause of flare-ups from celiac disease would be ingesting anything that contains gluten. But why do people have this condition in the first place? The common cause of developing the disease is through the family. Celiac disease is hereditary, with some gene variations increasing the risk of obtaining celiac. But just because someone had it in the family doesn't mean everyone else automatically has it, too. There are other external factors to it as well. It may be triggered after pregnancy or surgery. It may also come from a viral infection (gastrointestinal or gut bacteria) or emotional stress.
It can affect anyone, but those who are more at risk are those who have autoimmune diseases, diabetes, down syndrome or arthritis. Having family members who have celiac disease alas heightens the risk. For those who want to know if they have the disease, you will need to undergo testing from a medical professional.
Those who have celiac disease may experience any of the following upon taking in any form of gluten:
- Abdominal pain
- Rash (Dermatitis Herpetiformis)
- Reduction of bone density
- Joint or bone pain
- Mouth ulcers
- Weight loss
- Constipation or diarrhea
Those who continue to take in gluten (even just a little bit) for long-term might suffer from these complications:
- Infertility or miscarriage
- Lactose intolerance
- Neurological problems such as seizures or nerve disorders
Unfortunately, there is no cure for celiac disease. There is also no form of vaccination or prevention. The only way you can avoid the symptoms and effects of the condition are to cut out anything with gluten from your diet. This means to avoid any foods that contain wheat, rye, and/or barley.
The food and drinks you should avoid include bread, beer, pasta, cakes, cereals, some sauces and ready-made meals. Fortunately, there are now gluten-free products you can find in substitution of your favorite meals. Or, you can create your meal plan consisting of simple homemade dishes without gluten. Remember, even a small amount of gluten can damage the intestines significantly. While there is medicine to help alleviate the symptoms, long-term complications will arise if you continue to take any form of gluten.
To avoid the disadvantages of going gluten-free (such as deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals), you can opt to take supplements recommended by your doctor. Other ways to live with celiac disease safely and happily are to have regular exercise and sunlight. While it's an unfortunate condition to have, one can choose to move forward and continue to live healthily rather than feel secluded with dietary differences.
Celiac disease may be a common condition that many people go through, but it's still something important to learn about, especially if you or a family member has it. That way, you know how it occurs and why it does, learning how to treat it safely.
- Celiac disease has been dated back to the second century, written in Greek by a physician named Aretaeus of Cappadocia.
- By 1946, Dutch pediatrician Professor Willem Dicke demonstrated how children benefited from excluding wheat, oat flours, and rye from a diet, replaced with rice or maize flours instead.
- Come the 1990s, Detlef Schuppan created a blood test to diagnose celiac disease easily, though still needing a biopsy test.