Gluten-free products are growing in popularity. For most, avoiding gluten is just an option, but not people with a condition known as celiac disease. For them, gluten must be avoided at all costs.
What is gluten and what does it do to the body?
Gluten is a protein present in some grains, such as wheat and barley. Bread, pasta and baked desserts can contain a lot of gluten.
What are the symptoms?
Some people get diarrhea, severe bloating and gas. Wheat allergies often cause the same symptoms, but with a celiac disease sufferer, the immune system wreaks havoc on the inside of the small intestine. The damage from this attack keeps the body from absorbing needed nutrients. If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to a variety of health issues, including malnutrition, anxiety and depression, anemia, or bone loss. Celiac disease can also delay growth in children.
Celiac disease can be hard to pinpoint – in fact, though 1% of the total population may have it, only 20% of cases are diagnosed. That is because symptoms are so similar to other conditions.
How do I know…
A blood test can detect celiac disease, but you have to keep eating gluten for the test to work, and also for your doctor to find out if you are sensitive to gluten, but not due to celiac.
People may grow out of gluten sensitivity but celiac disease is carried for the full term of life. Whether non-celiac individuals can actually be gluten-sensitive has, in fact, been a controversial issue over the years. Watch this video…
Further tests for celiac disease
Once celiac disease is suspected by your doctor, removing a small piece of intestine for biopsy can help determine if there is tissue damage, a tell-tale sign of celiac disease. Genetic tests may also be given to see if the genes which create an immune response to gluten are present, but this often turns out to be inconclusive.
Symptoms your dentist or dental hygienist can uncover
Check out this video to discover some of the common conditions a dental office might discover as a result of celiac disease by Anastasia Turchetta, RDH (limited access – click link to view)…
A team funded by the National Institutes of Health may help doctors better predict whether a child has celiac disease. The team is following infants whose parents are celiac disease sufferers to gauge with what likelihood they express the condition.
Based on the fact that celiac disease and type 1 diabetes have common genes, another, international study is currently tracking newborns determined to be at risk for those conditions. They are hoping to identify environmental factors that have a preventive or triggering effect.
Treatment for Celiac Disease
Right now, the only known treatment for celiac disease is 100% abstinence from gluten. However, avoiding gluten is not as clear-cut a proposition as one might think. Why?
Not only is gluten found in products like pizza and french toast, it is often mixed into a surprising number of consumables – like vitamin supplements, over-the-counter medications and even lip balm. The FDA has strict rules for labeling a product as “gluten-free”. Consulting with a registered dietitian can be a great solution for navigating away from foods with gluten.
The primary goal is early diagnosis of celiac disease, then a proper gluten-free regimen. Waiting too long can cause serious health problems. Visit your doctor soon if you suspect any such conditions.
Source: NIH News in Health