Celiac is a condition in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged by an allergic reaction to the food protein gluten which is present in a number of grains. It is said to be an auto-immune disease since antibodies produced by the immune system against specific gluten components, namely gliadin, cross react with intestinal tissue which contains similar proteins.
Celiac disease is also referred to by other names including coeliac disease, celiac sprue, gluten intolerance, and gluten enteropathy.
Official figures for clinically diagnosed celiac disease put the rate at between 1 in 100 and 1 in 200 people based on results from various studies. However, it is widely accepted that the condition is underdiagnosed with many people suffering symptoms for years without either they or their healthcare practitioners realizing they have celiac disease. For this reason our emphasis here is on identifying the disease rather than treating it. The Biocard Celiac Test offers a cost effective and accurate way of identifying the disease at an early stage. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, the only treatment is to go on a gluten free diet for life.
The disease most often effects people of European (especially Northern European) descent. Rates amongst people of African, Japanese, and Chinese descent are much lower. This is thought to be due to a combination of less genetic susceptibility and low wheat diets. The risk for developing celiac disease is elevated in people with other autoimmune diseases. It is also considered to have a strong genetic component since it tends to run in families.
The symptoms of celiac disease are many and varied and it is considered to be a “multi-system, multi-symptom” disorder. As a result of this the condition is often mistaken for other bowel disorders (such as IBS) and sometimes even other types of illness, as surprisingly bowel symptoms are not always present in cases of celiac disease.
The disease can appear at any point in life. When a celiac disease sufferer is in their teens gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea and cramping may be most prominent, in their 30’s the disease may present mainly as fatigue and depression, and finally in middle to old-age osteoporosis may be most troubling. This chameleon-like nature of the disease plays a large part in underdiagnosis.
The following is a list of the most common symptoms:
Classic gastrointestinal symptoms:
Diarrhoea (characteristically pale in colour, bulky and strong smelling)
Distention and bloating
Steatorrhoea – fatty stools
Constipation (far less common than diarrhoea)
Damage to the small intestinal wall make it less able to absorb nutrients, minerals and fat-soluble vitamins.
Weight loss (often despite large appetite and food intake)
Failure to thrive (in children)
Fatigue and lack of energy
Poor blood coagulation and abnormal bleeding (due to vitamin K deficiency but relatively rare)
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
Dermatitis Herpetiformis – (a skin manifestation of celiac disease characterized by blistering, and intensely itchy skin, most often found on the face, elbows, knees and buttocks.
IgA deficiency (present in around 2% of patients with celiac disease)
Dental enamel defects
Infertility – male/female
Due to the fact that celiac disease can cause such varied and numerous symptoms, and a single person can experience different symptoms at different times, it is very often missed by doctors. It has been estimated that it takes an average of 10 years for a patient to be correctly diagnosed with the condition. Many patients are given a number of different diagnoses prior to the correct diagnosis of celiac disease being given.
Please note that Celiac disease is a genetically influenced condition afflicting around 1 in 100 people. It results from eating gluten, where the lining of the small intestine is chronically damaged by gluten proteins and their interaction with the immune system. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, the only treatment is to go on a gluten free diet for life.
For more information on diet and lifestyle click here https://www.coeliac.org.uk/gluten-free-diet-and-lifestyle/