This site will try to help others
understand Celiacs. I will try to
share information and resources I
have found as I learn to live with
this disease.

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Celiac disease (also called coeliac, nontropical sprue, celiac sprue, gluten intolerant enteropathy, or gluten sensitive enteropathy) is a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten found in some cereal grains. This reaction causes destruction of the villi in the small intestine, with resulting malabsorption of nutrients. This results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health. Gluten is a protein found in cereal grains: wheat, rye, triticale, and barley. In the case of wheat, gliadin has been isolated as the toxic fraction. Gluten is the key feature of flour that helps bread and other baked goods bind and prevents crumbling and has made gluten widely used in the production of many processed and packaged foods. Celiac's has no cure, but celiac disease is easily treated by following a gluten-free diet. Recent studies have shown that pure uncontaminated oats can be eaten in a gluten-free diet with care.

There is clear evidence of a family tendency toward celiac disease. 5-10% of the first-level relatives (parents & children) of diagnosed celiacs may develop celiac disease. The disease affects both sexes, and it can begin at any age, from infancy (as soon as cereal grains are introduced) to later life (even though the individual has consumed cereal grains all along). The onset of the disease seems to require two components: genetic predisposition (two specific genetic markers, called HLA subfactors, are present in well over 90% of all celiacs in America), and some kind of trigger. The trigger may be environmental (as in overexposure to wheat), situational (perhaps severe emotional stress), physical (such as a pregnancy, an operation), or pathological (a viral infection). Once thought to be a childhood disease that would be outgrown, recent evidence indicates that it is not uncommon for the symptoms of celiac disease to disappear during late childhood or adolescence, giving the appearance of a cure. Unfortunately, damage still occurs during these years of apparent health, and later in life these celiacs may find they have suffered considerable damage to the small intestine, and have for years deprived themselves of important nutrients.

Do you have Celiac Disease?

"Experts estimate that more than one million Americans are (undiagnosed) sufferers." ...Readers Digest Magazine Celiac Disease, also known as Celiac Sprue, is a genetically-linked autoimmune digestive disease in which the absorbing surface of the small intestine is damaged by gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes even contaminated oats. Once thought to be very rare, (approximately 1 in 4700 people in the USA are diagnosed Celiacs) recent medical research indicates that this figure is extraordinarily inaccurate. It is now known that 1 in 133 folks in this country are probably Celiacs... going undiagnosed... and suffering needlessly for many years! The initial onset of Celiac Disease can be seen in infants and very young children after nursing ceases, when cereals are first introduced to the diet. This digestive disease tends to be seen again in adults in their 30's or 40's and can be triggered in adulthood by several factors. Celiac Disease is a digestive disorder that is frequently misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, proctitis) pancreatitis and even gall bladder disease, to name but a few related or similar digestive diseases. In Celiac Disease, nutrients pass through the damaged small intestine, unabsorbed, often creating a host of sometimes devastating health and digestive disease problems.

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

Don't Be Misdiagnosed! It is extremely important for health sufferers to become aware of the long list of intestinal diseases that can be attributed to Celiac Disease, but that mimic so many other diseases. Celiac Disease is frequently misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, proctitis) pancreatitis, and even gall bladder disease, to name but a few. There are numerous intestinal disorders that can be caused by or are related to Celiac Disease and many diseases that are associated with, or may be a by-product of Celiac Disease.

Reactions to ingestion of gluten can be immediate, or delayed for weeks or even months. The amazing thing about celiac disease is that no two individuals who have it seem to have the same set of symptoms or reactions. A person might have several of the symptoms listed below, a few of them, one, or none. There are even cases in which obesity turned out to be a symptom of celiac disease. Do you know someone with these symptoms? They can range from no gluten sensitive symptoms at all to severe gas and diarrhea or non-intestinal disease symptoms such as muscle cramps, infertility, and even depression. Symptoms of Celiac Disease can vary with each individual and cover a wide arena... There is no typical celiac. Individuals range from having no symptoms (asymptomatic or "latent" forms of the disease) to extreme cases where patients present to their physicians with gas, bloating, diarrhea, and weight loss due to malabsorption. In between these two extremes lie a wide variety of symptoms that include:

Individuals have reported such varied symptoms as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Steatorrhea (fatty stools that float rather than sink)
  • Abdominal pain Excessive gas
  • Any problem associated with vitamin deficiencies Iron deficiency (anemia)
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Weakness Weight loss/gain
  • Bone pain
  • Easily fractured bones
  • Abnormal or impaired skin sensation (paresthesia), Including burning, prickling, itching or tingling
  • Edema
  • Headaches
  • Peripheral Neuropathy* (tingling in fingers and toes)
  • White flecks on the fingernails
  • Fuzzy-mindedness after gluten ingestion
  • Burning sensations in the throat

In children, the symptoms may include:

  • Failure to thrive
  • Paleness
  • Querulousness, irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Wasted buttocks
  • Pot belly with or without painful bloating
  • Pale, malodorous, bulky stools
  • Frequent, foamy diarrhea

In addition to all of these, dermatitis herpetiformis, a disease in which severe rashes appear (often on the head, elbows, knees and buttocks) is related to celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder with a genetic component, appearing to be linked to certain types of HLA genes. Some medical conditions and diseases that have been associated with Celiac Disease are:

  • iron deficiency anemia
  • osteoporosis
  • gum problems
  • skin problems
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • fibromyalgia
  • peripheral neuropathy
  • infertility
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Sjogren's syndrome
  • Grave's disease
  • Myasthenia gravis

These diseases are all autoimmune disorders which appear to have a higher incidence among people with celiac disease than in the general population. Treatment for CD will not cure these conditions. Other Conditions: A number of other conditions have been reported that may occur because of untreated CD, and can be expected to improve when treated with a gluten-free diet. Osteoporosis is a frequent complication of CD due to malabsorption prior to diagnosis. Adherence to a gluten-free diet can lead to significant bone remineralization. The two major determining factors in developing osteoporosis are maturation of peak bone mass and subsequent bone loss. Thus in order to achieve optimal bone mass, early detection of CD is essential. Depression is another well-documented presentation of untreated or undiagnosed CD. Psychological improvement is usually noted after placement on a gluten-free diet and vitamin B6 treatments. Ane mia, deficiency of iron, folic acid and/or Vitamin B12 is another common symptom of CD, and can be expected to improve on a gluten-free diet.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing a Celiac can be difficult because some of the symptoms of Celiac Disease are similar to those of IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other intestinal or digestive diseases that often mimic Celiac Disease. In some cases, it may be helpful to briefly eliminate gluten from the diet and then to observe the body's reaction. However, it is recommended that abstaining from gluten should not take place if diagnostic testing is scheduled. Doing so could interfere with accurate laboratory results. Biopsies taken during an endoscopy may indicate damage to the small intestine and to the villi, the tiny, hair-like projections that line the small intestine. However, it is very important that your physician is up to date with the latest information regarding this illness and that the scope procedure is done correctly. Special blood work is standard protocol for testing for Celiac Disease. . . ...however, this testing is not always accurate, so should not be relied upon solely for an accurate diagnosis. New lab stool tests have become available that are helpful in determining gluten sensitivity, however the upper bowel scope is the most reliable diagnostic tool in determining if a person truly has Celiac Disease..... Treatment for Celiac Disease can include eliminating all sources of gluten, and treating any associated conditions. In addition, the treatment for Celiac Disease is a lifetime commitment and must be strictly followed!