Celiac disease an overview

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Anupama Nair



People came to hear about the disease ‘Celiac disorder’ when Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu had stated that she had the disease. What is a celiac disorder? It is an immune disorder triggered by foods containing gluten. What is gluten? “Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other grains. It’s what makes dough elastic and gives bread its chewy texture”.

Celiac disease, sometimes called celiac sprue or ‘gluten-sensitive enteropathy’, is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in your small intestine.

Over time, the disease damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing some nutrients which in layman’s term is called ‘mal-absorption. The intestinal damage later causes diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and anemia, and can lead to serious complications, if not treated in time. In children, the malabsorption can seriously affect their growth and development, besides causing the symptoms seen in adults.

What happens, when someone with celiac disorder eats gluten? Doctors say their body overreacts to the protein and damages their ‘villi’, which is a small finger-like projection found along the wall of your small intestine. When your villi are injured, your small intestine can’t properly absorb nutrients from food. Eventually, this can lead to malnourishment, as well as loss of bone density, miscarriage, infertility or even neurological diseases or certain cancers. If you are not cured within a year it’s called refractory or non-responsive celiac disease.

Most people with celiac disease never know that they have it. Researchers think that as few as 20% of people with the disease get the right diagnosis. The damage to your intestine is very slow, and symptoms are so varied that it can take years to get a diagnosis.

Is there any difference between celiac disorder or gluten intolerance? No, celiac disease isn’t the same thing as gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity. People with gluten intolerance may have some of the same symptoms and may want to avoid gluten, however, they don’t show an immune response or damage to the small intestine.

If you have celiac disease and accidentally eat something with gluten in it, you may have symptoms including — abdominal pain, anemia, bloating, joint pain, constipation, diarrhea, acidity, heartburn, itchy, blistery rash, headache or fatigue, mouth ulcers, nausea, injury to nervous system and weight loss. Celiac disease can also cause a loss of bone density and reduced function of the spleen or hypersplenism.

What are the symptoms for children? Children with celiac disease are more likely to have intestinal problems, like bloating or belly swelling, constipation, diarrhea, pale, foul-smelling stool, upset stomach or vomiting, and weight loss. Unfortunately, If the celiac disease keeps a child’s body from absorbing the nutrients they need, many problems including – anemia, delayed puberty, failure to survive in infants, and crankiness or mood changes. Neurological problems like learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also might occur in children.

There is no need to get alarmed as not everyone with celiac disease will show these symptoms. Some people don’t notice any problems, which can make diagnosis difficult. Researchers across the world say there is no cure for this disease.

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