A Visual Guide to Celiac Disease


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1-What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that occurs in reaction to gluten, a protein found in rye, barley, wheat, and hundreds of foods made with these grains. The body’s immune system reacts to the gluten and causes damage to the intestine. Celiac disease, also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is fairly common. An estimated 1.8 million Americans have the disorder and need to follow a gluten-free diet.
2-Celiac Symptoms: Digestive
Symptoms of celiac disease can vary from mild to severe. Some people have no symptoms, although they still are developing intestinal damage. Celiac disease is sometimes misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, or gastric ulcers. Digestive symptoms may include:
• Abdominal bloating and pain
• Diarrhea
• Vomiting
• Constipation
• Pale, foul-smelling stool
3-Celiac Symptoms: Weight Loss
Many adults with celiac disease don’t have digestive symptoms at all. But the failure to absorb nutrients may lead to other problems, including weight loss and malnutrition. Signs and symptoms related to weight loss or malnutrition can include:
• Anemia
• Fatigue
• Osteoporosis
• Infertility or miscarriage
• Mouth ulcers
• Tingling, numbness in the hands and feet
4-Celiac Symptoms: Skin Rash
For some people, celiac disease causes an itchy, blistering rash known as dermatitis herpetiformis. It may begin with an intense burning sensation around the elbows, knees, scalp, buttocks, and back. Clusters of red, itchy bumps form and then scab over. It often first occurs in the teenage years and is more common among men than women. The rash usually clears with a gluten-free diet but can also be treated with medication.
5-Celiac Symptoms: Mood and Memory
Some people with celiac experience depression, irritability, poor memory, and trouble concentrating. The strain of having a chronic disease can contribute to problems with mood and memory, particularly when there is chronic pain or fatigue related to anemia.
6-Warning Signs in Children
Celiac symptoms may start in childhood, even in infants when parents introduce foods that contain gluten. Symptoms can include vomiting, bloating, pain, diarrhea, and irritability. The disease can lead to slowed growth or even failure to thrive. Children with celiac may have teeth that are pitted, grooved, discolored, or poorly formed. Children with a parent or sibling with celiac disease should be screened.
7-Celiac Disease Trigger Foods
Wheat is a staple in Western cultures, so many common foods contain enough gluten to aggravate celiac disease — breads, crackers, muffins, pasta, pizza, cakes, and pies. Fried chicken can be off limits, thanks to the breading. Chinese seitan and Japanese udon noodles come from wheat. Rye and barley also contain gluten, so pumpernickel bread, barley soup, and even beer can cause problems for those with celiac disease.
8-Celiac or Wheat Allergy?
Celiac disease and wheat allergy both involve the immune system but the reaction within the body is different. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the lining of the intestine. It is a lifelong disorder. Symptoms of wheat allergy can include a skin rash, wheezing, abdominal pain, or diarrhea. Wheat allergy is often outgrown.
9-Celiac or Lactose Intolerance?
Celiac disease damages the inner lining of the small intestine, and that may lead to difficulty digesting lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. Following a gluten-free diet allows the intestine to recover, and people with celiac disease may discover that they are able to digest lactose once again.
10-Who Gets Celiac Disease?
While no one knows exactly why, the following factors place you at greater risk for developing the condition:
• An immediate family member with celiac
• Exposure to gluten before 3 months of age
• Major life event, emotional stress, pregnancy, or surgery in people who are genetically predisposed
• Type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, or other autoimmune disease
• Another genetic disorder such as Down syndrome or Turner syndrome
11-Celiac Damage in the Intestine
In people with celiac, the body’s immune system is triggered by gluten in food. Antibodies attack the intestinal lining, damaging, flattening, or destroying the tiny hair-like projections (villi) in the small bowel. Damaged villi can’t effectively absorb nutrients through the intestinal wall. As a result, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals get passed through the stool. Over time, this can lead to malnutrition.
12-Late-Onset Celiac Disease
Celiac disease may occur at any age, even in the elderly. While people must have a genetic predisposition to it, researchers don’t know why some people develop an immune reaction after years of tolerance to gluten. But the average length of time it takes a person with symptoms to be diagnosed with celiac disease is four years.

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