Celiac disease is a condition caused by eating protein gluten, a type of gluten found in cookies, pasta, bread, pizza crust, and many other types of food that contain barley, rye, or wheat. If people with this digestive condition eat any kind of food that has gluten in it, they will experience an immune reaction in their small intestine. This reaction can damage the lining of the small intestine and makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the body to absorb some specific nutrients. After a period of time, this inability to absorb nutrients will cause vitamin deficiencies that lead to malnourishment and organ damage. This malabsorption can then lead to a number of issues.
The symptoms of celiac disease greatly vary from person to person. In fact, celiac disease has no typical symptoms, so it can be quite difficult to determine if you have it without going to a doctor and having tests done. Often, people with celiac disease will suffer from several different issues after eating food with gluten. Some gastrointestinal symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bloating. However, some people never suffer these symptoms. Instead, they may find themselves dealing with an upset stomach, anemia, depression, join pain, mouth sores, skin rashes, or muscle cramps. Celiac disease can also cause neuropathy (tingling in the legs and feet or hands) or bone disorders like osteoporosis.
Another problem in diagnosing celiac disease is that its symptoms often mimic those of other types of conditions. These include Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastric ulcers, anemia, nervous conditions, parasite infections, and even skin disorders. Another problem is that the symptoms of malabsorption often mask the effects of celiac disease. These symptoms can include sudden weight loss, a general weakness, fatigue, anemia, osteoporosis, stunted growth, abdominal cramps, and stools that appear gray in color and have a strong odor. Again, these can all be signs of other problems, making it difficult to immediately point to celiac disease. In some cases, especially early on, a person with celiac disease may not even suspect something serious is wrong.
However, there is one way you can tell if you have gluten intolerance. If you notice any kind of itchy, blistering rash covering any of your skin, you may have what is called dermatitis herpetiformis. This skin rash, which is also caused by eating foods with gluten, usually appears around the knees, elbows, and buttocks. Just like celiac disease, it can result in some intestinal damage. However, it may not result in any kind of digestive illness or symptoms.
While seeing just a few of the symptoms of celiac disease for a day or two may not indicate a major problem, if you start having any of the symptoms for more than a few weeks, you may have celiac disease. This is especially true if you have a family history of celiac disease. If your child seems pale, doesn’t seem to be growing, and has developed a flat buttock, potbelly, and has bulky stools, you may need to take him or her to the doctor for a celiac test.
The cause of celiac disease is still unknown, but it seems to be inherited. There is about a 15 percent chance that if someone in your immediate family has celiac disease that you will eventually develop it as well. Sometimes, celiac disease only appears after some form of major trauma like a physical injury, an infection, surgery, or major stress. Pregnancy has also been known to bring on celiac disease, although again, there is no clear reason why this is so. Some other issues that can increase your chances of having celiac disease include Down syndrome, autoimmune thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, and microscopic colitis.
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