A recent study has found that celiac disease may follow Type 1 diabetes, and it has found that children have a greater risk of having celiac disease auto-antibodies, which may then result in the disorder.
According to Dr. William Hagopian, type 1 diabetes and celiac disease are closely related genetically. That is, if a person gets one of them, he or she tends to obtain the other one, too. In this case, people with type 1 diabetes are advised to get screened for any signs of celiac disease. Moreover, the Celiac Disease Foundation indicated that there is approximately 6% prevalence of celiac disease in type 1 diabetes patients.
Type 1 diabetes is a well-known autoimmune disease where one’s immune system mistakenly attacks the cells that produce insulin, which is a hormone that guides the sugar from foods into the body’s cells to be utilized as fuel in the pancreas as stated by the American Diabetes Association. This causes type 1 diabetes patients to compensate the lost insulin by injecting or using an insulin pump with its tube inserted under the skin. Diapedia indicated that there are 250-350 people in the Western countries alone that are affected by the classic childhood form of type 1 diabetes.
This disease may start occurring at any age, yet it is most commonly during the age of 5 or during puberty. In fact, children in Western countries have a 0.3-0.4% risk of developing the disease by the time they turn 20 years of age. Moreover, the siblings of the affected children have 6% risk of getting the disease, too.
Apparently, that’s the clearest difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The latter is not an autoimmune disease. Moreover, this disease usually occurs in adulthood and is considered to be more common as compared to type 1 diabetes. However, there isn’t yet evidence that celiac disease may shadow type 2 diabetes.
On the other hand, the Celiac Disease Foundation defines celiac disease as another autoimmune disease that triggers the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine once gluten, the usual protein found in wheat, is taken. This disease is believed to occur between six months and two years of age. According to the Celiac Intolerance Group, the kind of reaction to gluten damages the small intestine, which then leads to the wrong absorption of the nutrients. With this, celiac patients may experience stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, vomiting, weight loss, and delayed growth and puberty for children.
Type 1 diabetes is highly associated with celiac disease on a genetic aspect. There are 5 out of 10 people who have acquired both diseases. Naturally, celiac is often detected at a later stage; thus, type 1 diabetes may be expected to have occurred first. Coeliac UK indicated that when celiac disease is diagnosed before diabetes, the latter’s symptoms tend to be more severe, which may then increase the risk of having another autoimmune disease. However, it still is uncommon for one to develop celiac disease first before diabetes, except if the former has been detected since the patient's young age.
Dr. James Grendell stated that early detection of celiac disease is essential to initiate a kind of treatment with a gluten-free diet so as to prevent further complications, especially in children’s growth. He also added that other complications such as iron-deficiency anemia, osteoporosis, and skin rashes may also occur if celiac disease is left untreated. The other less common, yet potentially deadly complications, include lymphoma and carcinoma in the small intestine.
Additionally, it is also believed that when a family has two children who are both patients with type 1 diabetes, it is likely that someone in the family will obtain celiac disease.
How will celiac disease work with diabetes?
The damaged intestine that is affected by celiac disease cannot absorb nutrients any more, especially carbohydrates properly. Thus, this damage may increase the chances of having hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
Hypoglycemia is the condition obtained when one ‘s blood sugar decreases to below normal levels while hyperglycemia is the opposite condition of the latter where one’s blood sugar is generally at higher levels. Clearly, both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia are complications of diabetes.
To prevent those, the patient is advised to monitor his or her blood glucose levels in every meal that the patient takes. With this, the sugar levels’ response to these meals will be examined.
What should one do if both diseases are obtained?
Basically, one must attempt to return the small intestine to its normal state. For it to work well, patients need to stick to a gluten-free diet. Basically, having a good diet is essential for patients with diabetes as well. However, considering the combination of the two autoimmune diseases, being extra careful is a must.
For some people with type 1 diabetes, they may be negative for celiac disease in their early diagnosis. However, the autoimmune disease may occur at a later stage. Thus, the British Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition or BSPGHAN suggested that children with type 1 diabetes should undergo another test after three years or if symptoms start to occur.
The following tips are also recommended so that the patients can deal with both autoimmune diseases.
- Three meals a day must be maintained so that the appetite will be controlled, as well as the blood glucose levels.
- Consume gluten-free starchy carbohydrate foods like gluten-free bread, pasta, crackers, rice, buckwheat, and others for each meal.
- Cut down fats, especially saturated ones to avoid calories.
- Eating more fish is highly recommended since it is gluten-free.
- Limit the sugar intake by choosing sugar-free products.
- Salt must be avoided so that one’s blood pressure won’t increase.
- Don’t forget the fruits and vegetables ,especially fresh and dried ones for these are also gluten-free; five portions of them must be eaten every day.
- Include the naturally gluten-free pulses such as lentils, beans, and peas in your soup or salad.
- If alcohol is desired, choose the gluten-free ones. Moreover, do not drink with an empty stomach for this may increase the risk of having low blood glucose levels or hypoglycemia if you are currently medications for diabetes.
- Generally, diabetic foods and drinks must be avoided.
Truly, there are some diseases that produce another complicated one due to the similarities in their characteristics. On the other hand, there are a lot of products out there that are visually good yet physically destructive. So, choosing the foods that will be consumed by one, especially for children, should be done carefully. Moreover, adapting oneself to a healthy diet is best done during childhood. Parents should start exposing their children to healthy foods so it will be easier for them to continue a healthy lifestyle as they grow older.
Not to mention, children should also start knowing the importance of getting enough sleep and exercise. For these days, children are the easy victims of serious diseases like this. Thus, a need to pay attention to children’s health is more than necessary nowadays. After all, being conscious about one’s health is still the best armor and prevention one may settle with. Yet in the course of having diseases such as diabetes and celiac, both parents and children should maintain a positive mindset so that the process of healing will be effective.