Over 3 million Americans are suffering from a hidden epidemic; if you’re affected by bloating, fatigue or joint pain, Celiac disease could be responsible. Celiac disease can wreak havoc on your body and even predispose you to liver disease or cancer.
Even worse, this disorder is commonly misdiagnosed or unrecognized by doctors. But there are critical signs and symptoms you can look for if you’re worried you are at risk. A gluten-free diet might be the answer to your prayers – and even if you are gluten tolerant, eliminating gluten could help you lose weight.
Gluten: What It Is and Where to Find It
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that prevents your intestine from absorbing nutrients properly. That’s because people with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein commonly found in wheat and other grains such as rye and barley. Gluten gives bread its springy texture and is even used in products like pills and beauty treatments. Gluten can also hide in other foods and food products like bacon bits, blue cheese, beer, flavored coffee, licorice and soy sauce.
What Happens When You Ingest Gluten
If you have Celiac disease and ingest this protein, your immune system responds by releasing antibodies that damage or destroy your intestinal villi – part of the fine architecture of your small intestine. Normally, your small intestine is like a plush carpet lined with finger-like villi that absorb crucial nutrients from food. When you have Celiac disease, those villi flatten out and the intestinal carpet looks more like a hardwood floor; and you can no longer absorb nutrients properly. This leads to malnutrition, no matter how much you eat. There is a difference between gluten intolerance and Celiac disease; gluten intolerance generally does not cause the same kind of intestinal damage, but does lead to uncomfortable abdominal symptoms with the ingestion of gluten.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
The symptoms can be hard to pinpoint, but the most common general complaints are abdominal pain, bloating and intermittent diarrhea. Sometimes people with Celiac disease have no abdominal symptoms at all, and instead present with complains that include irritability, joint pain, muscle cramps, mouth sores, tingling in the feet, or even with a rash called Dermatitis herpetiformis – an itchy, blistering skin disease caused by gluten intolerance.
The treatment for this rash, as well as the other symptoms of Celiac disease, is to maintain a gluten-free diet. They key is getting to the right diagnosis. Celiac disease can be a tricky diagnosis because this disorder mimics other conditions such as IBS, ulcers, Crohn’s disease and anemia.