Understanding celiac disease

CE delves into the intricacies of celiac disease awareness with expert insights and practical guidance on adopting a gluten-free lifestyle
Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only.

HYDERABAD : We often consume a lot of wheat and other protein-rich foods to maintain fitness and health. But do you know that the ingestion of gluten protein, present in certain foods, can lead to celiac disease? Although the exact root cause is unknown, the consequence may necessitate a lifelong consumption of gluten-free foods. It is estimated that 1 in 100 people worldwide are affected, but only about 30% receive proper diagnosis. As May is observed as Celiac Disease Awareness Month, it’s crucial to delve into the disease and gain a better understanding of gluten-free food.

Celiac disease, a serious autoimmune condition triggered by gluten intolerance, occurs in genetically predisposed individuals. The ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, triggers an immune response in those with celiac disease. Upon consuming gluten, the immune system attacks the gluten proteins in the small intestine, gradually damaging its lining. This continual reaction disrupts the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients properly, resulting in a condition known as malabsorption.

Dr Bhavani Raju
Dr Bhavani Raju

Dr Bhavani Raju, Consultant Medical Gastroenterologist at CARE Hospitals, mentioned that celiac disease currently does not have a known cure. However, a strict gluten-free diet can help manage symptoms for the majority of people. Symptoms include diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and gas, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or anaemia, frequently brought on by intestinal injury. If left untreated, it might also result in severe problems. In addition to gastrointestinal symptoms, malabsorption in children can also affect growth and development.

However, more than half of adults with celiac disease experience symptoms not related to the digestive system. These include anaemia, often due to decreased iron absorption, contributing to fatigue and weakness. Loss of bone density, termed osteoporosis, or bone softening, known as osteomalacia, pose significant risks. Dermatitis herpetiformis, a bothersome skin rash, and mouth ulcers also afflict individuals with celiac disease. Headaches, fatigue, and neurological issues like numbness, tingling sensations, balance problems, and cognitive impairment further compound the burden. Joint pain, reduced spleen functioning (hyposplenism), and elevated liver enzymes add to the complexity of symptoms.

Dr K Seshi Kiran, Consultant Physician at Yashoda Hospitals, emphasised necessary diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosis includes blood tests to check for certain antibodies, intestinal biopsy to examine the lining of the small intestine, and gluten challenge to confirm the diagnosis. He suggests lifestyle changes, including reading food labels carefully, avoiding processed and packaged foods, eating whole, unprocessed foods, and finding gluten-free alternatives.

Dr K Seshi Kiran
Dr K Seshi Kiran

Foods that are naturally gluten-free

  •  Fresh meats, poultry, fish, and seafood

  •  Fresh fruits and vegetables

  •  Rice, corn, and gluten-free grains like quinoa, amaranth,

  •  Beans, lentils, and legumes

  •  Nuts and seeds

  •  Dairy products (except those with added gluten)

  •  Gluten-free flours like almond, coconut, and rice flour

Foods to avoid or limit

  •  Bread, pasta, cereals, and baked goods made with wheat, barley, or rye

  •  Processed meats, sauces,

  •  Beer (most types)

  •  Some energy bars, supplements, and medications

-Dr K Seshi Kiran, Consultant Physician at Yashoda Hospitals

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