Not so long ago, celiac disease was considered to be an allergy
to gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, that
predominantly affected children.
Now, however, it is known that celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects about 1 percent of people in the United States, says Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
What is celiac disease?
Nowadays, celiac disease is perceived to be an autoimmune
disease like diabetes and multiple sclerosis, not a food allergy
to wheat as thought before.
When people who are genetically skewed toward the disease eat wheat, they, first of all, have a reaction [to wheat] in the intestine. The reaction makes the intestine leakier so that more wheat comes into the body. Then the immune cells of the intestine will mount an inflammatory response that ultimately will damage the liner cells [of the intestine] that are charged with absorbing nutrition. Ultimately, it can lead to further damage throughout the body.
Who is susceptible to this disease?
Now we know it is the most frequent human disorder.
In the USA Celiac disease occurs in 5 to 15 percent of the offspring and siblings of a person with celiac disease.
What causes it?
Like all autoimmune diseases, there is a trigger - the protein - gluten - found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten causes celiac diseases.
What are its symptoms?
When the celiac disease can affect people of any age, include the GI symptoms - vomiting, nausea, irritable bowel symptoms, constipation instead of diarrhea - and many others.
How is it diagnosed?
If your vitamin -D level, iron level and B-12 level are low you have Celaic disease as you cannot absorb these nutrients.
How is it treated?
Well, the luxury of celiac disease, compared to all other autoimmune diseases, is that we know the trigger. Knowing the trigger - gluten - is the cornerstone of how you treat the disease. We can't remove the genes - we aren't quite there yet - but we can completely avoid for life products that contain gluten. Now that is easy to say but very, very complicated to do. Please see the diet.
Once gluten has been removed from the diet, are the symptoms alleviated?
It depends. In the vast majority of cases, they will completely go away: Anemia will be resolved and with it, fatigue, and so on.
For example, if you are diagnosed ... by around age 30, then osteoporosis can be fixed. But after that, it cannot be changed. Or if you are diagnosed before puberty, then you can catch up in your growth, but after that you really can't do anything.
What do you tell your patients who are diagnosed with celiac disease?
It means your lifestyle changes. When you travel, socialize, go to college, it affects your lifestyle and will limit it in certain ways.
I tell them, "I do understand your feelings, but let's say I have the power to trade your celiac disease for any other autoimmune disease, which you would rather have? Cancer, diabetes, Crohn's, cystic fibrosis?" They say, "Well, I will keep the celiac disease."
All diseases can be triggered by Celiac disease.