A Life With Celiac Disease and What It Means for Patients
People with celiac disease are allergic to gluten, the generic name for a group of proteins found in most grain products. It can quite literally be considered a glue that helps food to retain its shape. When gluten is consumed by people with celiac, their bodies cause their immune systems to attack the small intestine. The villi inside of the intestines, which are the small protrusions responsible for absorbing nutrients, become damaged over time, so the nutrients from food cannot be absorbed into the body.
This results in people who, even though they eat, become malnourished and are at risk for developing a host of other autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, osteoporosis, infertility issues (being prone to miscarriages), intestinal cancers, and some neurological conditions like migraines and epilepsy.
In both children and adults, the symptoms of celiac disease can be similar, but there are some things which children may be more prone to experiencing. Signs of celiac disease in toddlers include short stature, foul-smelling stools, and a bloated, painful abdomen. Signs in older children manifest as chronic vomiting, short stature for their age, weight loss, and irritability. In adults, the symptoms can be fatigue, anemia, bone and joint pain, seizures, migraines, depression, canker sores, missed periods, and dermatitis.
There are three types of celiac disease, as listed below:
- Classical celiac: This is the most common form of the disease. Due to the malabsorption of nutrients, a person will experience weight loss.
- Non-classical celiac: In response to gluten, a person may have a painful, distended abdomen, reduced bone mass, and constipation.
- Silent celiac: With this type of celiac disease, the villi of the intestine are damaged, but the person does not show any outward signs, making it difficult to identify.
Adopting a completely new lifestyle is the only way to live with celiac disease. It requires a higher level of preparation for dining out, monitoring the food one consumes, and making changes in one’s daily life. There are gluten-free options available, but finding them can be a bit difficult depending on where the individual lives.
If you are dining out, search for restaurants with websites that show you their gluten-free options or call ahead. Many now include gluten-free options on their menus alongside the standard fare. A person with celiac may need to bring their own lunch on a regular basis, as gluten is present in almost all food items. In the last few years, finding gluten-free options has become more commonplace. However, for people with celiac disease, it can still be difficult and poses a severe health risk. Grains are present in rye, barley, oatmeal, wheat, cereals, and breads. Many foods, though, can be incorporated into one’s daily life as gluten alternatives; these include whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, chicken, fish, and eggs. Use gluten-free ingredients like almond flour in cooking recipes, and avoid buying prepackaged foods at major retailers.
It has been estimated that one in one hundred people worldwide suffer from this disease, and in the United States alone, almost two and a half million go undiagnosed. An individual with celiac disease needs to continuously monitor what they consume to ensure their body obtains proper nutrition. Celiac should not be seen as a death sentence or a life of wanting. There are many products available in the market that are free of gluten, and they are actually good and sometimes can even be better than traditional options.
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease in which the intestines are damaged whenever the patient ingests products containing gluten, so it is very important to identify gluten-free food choices and adopt them into one’s daily routine.