With gluten intolerance becoming more prevalent in the United States, many people are learning that intolerance and allergic reactions are not the only possible impact of gluten. Celiac disease impacts 1-2% of the population and can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated properly. In this article we’ll define celiac disease and discuss the symptoms of celiac disease as well as celiac disease diagnosis.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is when an individual has an adverse reaction to ingesting gluten whereby the gluten causes damage to the small intestines leading to nutrient malabsorption.
What are the symptoms of celiac disease?
While there is no set list of symptoms that can be used to definitively diagnose celiac disease, there are some general symptoms that many suffering from the disease report. These symptoms include:
Diarrhea or constipation
Problems with nutrient absorption, including
Easily broken bones
In some individuals, a very itchy rash may develop which may be diagnosed as dermatitis herpetiformis which is a skin disease related to celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
Celiac disease diagnosis
Generally celiac disease is diagnosed in a three-step process.
1.Do a small intestine biopsy. This takes only a few minutes. Children are usually sedated, while adults typically do not need to be. If the biopsy reveals that the villi in the intestines are damaged, the process moves to step
2.Try a treatment plan consisting of a strict gluten-free diet for at least six months and then perform another biopsy. If the villi are healed proceed to step 3.
3.Reintroduce gluten for six months or longer and then do another biopsy. If the villi are damaged again then the diagnosis is complete. The recommended treatment plan is a gluten free diet for life.
It is important to note that not all doctors use the three step process. Many believe that step 1 is the only one that is needed. There are also blood tests that can be done to help diagnose the disease. Before having the biopsy it is important to eat normally – removing or reducing gluten or eating differently than you usually do can impact the results of the test.
If you think that you may be gluten intolerant or that you may have celiac disease, be sure to consult your physician. Testing is relatively straightforward and if you test positive your doctor will be able to assist you with a treatment plan.