Celiac disease is a digestive disorder in which an individual is unable to digest gluten, the name for the general proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley, as well as certain vitamins, medicines and lip balms.
Celiac disease is both a disease of malabsorption (nutrients are not absorbed properly) and an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. This intolerance to gluten triggers an immune response that damages and/or destroys villi, the tiny protrusions that line the small intestine and absorb nutrients from foods such as fat, calcium and iron into the bloodstream. Without the properly functioning villi, nutrients will fail to reach the bloodstream and an individual with celiac disease can become malnourished.
There are many causes and triggers of celiac disease, which include:
• Viral infection
• Severe emotional stress or trauma
Symptoms of celiac disease include:
• Digestive problems (bloating, pain, gas, diarrhea, and weight loss)
• Dermatitis Herpetiformis (a severe skin rash)
• Iron deficiency anemia (a low red blood cell count)
• Muscle cramps
• Growth problems (mostly found in children)
• Tingling sensation in the legs
• Mouth sores
• Missed menstrual period
Celiac disease can be diagnosed by a series of blood tests that examine gluten auto-antibodies and by a minor bowel biopsy to assess gut damage. Since gluten is a staple in the average person’s diet, it is important to continue eating this protein until the tests are completed and evaluated for the most accurate diagnosis.
The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free diets are mainly composed of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and most dairy products. Healthy, gluten-free alternatives to wheat and grains include almond meal flour, corn, quinoa, potatoes, and soy flour.
If you think you have celiac disease, a doctor can perform tests to diagnose your condition. For more information, please call Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Gastroenterology Department at 718-206-7001.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.