Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of food nutrients. The cause of celiac disease is from the body’s immune system response to gluten by damaging the lining of the small intestine. This lining has small, finger-like growths called villi which normally absorb nutrients from the foods we eat. When the villi are damaged, the body can not absorb the nutrients it needs. This means a person with celiac disease can’t eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, or barley.
Originally thought to be a rare childhood syndrome, celiac disease is now known to be a common genetic disorder. More than 2 million people in the United States have the disease, or about 1 in 133 people. Among people who have a first-degree relative—a parent, sibling, or child—diagnosed with celiac disease, as many as 1 in 22 people may have the disease.
Celiac disease can be very serious. Besides stomach pains, it can cause anemia, malnutrition, infertility, a certain skin rash, and other health problems. Most people with celiac disease have one or more symptoms, but not all have digestive problems. In some cases, people with the disease may not have any symptoms.
Symptoms of celiac disease include the following:
• Stomach pain
• Feeling very tired
• Change in mood
• Weight loss
• A very itchy skin rash, with blisters
• Slowed growth in children
• Feeling very tired
• Change in mood
Celiac disease can be hard to diagnose because its symptoms are like many other digestive diseases. Often it is mistaken for another problem such as food intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome and you may be treated for one of these problems first.
During your examination your physician will ask questions about your symptoms and eating habits. Typically, a blood test will be ordered to see if you have certain antibodies that could mean you have the disease. To confirm you have the disease an endoscopy procedure will be performed. In this test, a doctor uses an endoscope-a thin, lighted flexible tube-to look at the inside of your small intestine. During the endoscopy, the doctor may take a small sample of tissue to be sent to a pathologist - a physician who specializes in the diagnosis of disease via microscopic examination of a tissue sample - to determine what disease or condition you have. The pathologist's diagnosis is key to determining the need for further treatment.
The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. A dietitian, an expert in food and healthy eating, can work with you to help you learn how to select gluten-free foods. If you eliminate gluten from your diet, your small intestine will heal. If you eat gluten or consume foods that contain gluten, you will harm your small intestine.
The following lists examples of foods you should avoid if you have celiac disease. The list is not complete. A dietitian can help you learn what other foods you can/cannot eat when following a gluten-free diet.
Foods to avoid:
• Wheat — Wheat starch, wheat bran, wheat germ, cracked wheat, hydrolyzed wheat protein
• Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
• Processed foods that may contain wheat, barley, or rye, such as the following:
− Bouillon cubes, chips/potato chips, candy, cold cuts, hot dogs, salami, sausage
− French fries, Gravy, Rice mixes, Soups, Soy sauce
Questions To Ask Your Healthcare Provider
• What dietary changes are recommended?
• Are there lifestyles changes I need to make?
This information is intended for patient education and information only. It does not constitute advice, nor should it be taken to suggest or replace professional medical care from your physician. Your treatment options may vary, depending upon your medical history and current condition. Only your physician and you can determine your best treatment option.
For more information:
American Celiac Society
P. O. Box 23455
New Orleans, LA 70183-0455
Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
2 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3570
Celiac Disease Foundation
13251 Ventura Boulevard, #1
Studio City, CA 91604
College of American Pathologists
325 Waukegan Road
Northfield, IL 60093-2750
Please visit www.cap.org, from the cap home page, please click on “Health and Wellness Resources for the Public”. The following options will appear on the Resources for the Public page:
1. Medical Test Information: Understanding cancer diagnoses: MyBiopsy.org Your Source for information About Cancer Diagnosis.
2. Your Health: Your health test reminder – Patients can put in personal data and will get reminder emails for important tests, screening colonoscopies, etc. Information on disease diagnosis and prevention – A page developed by pathologists, doctors who specialize in prevention, early detection, and diagnosis of disease.