Celiac disease is the name given to an autoimmune disorder which affects the small intestine. The disease can occur in all ages and presents a range of symptoms. An individual with celiac disease should abstain from consumption of gluten, a protein which is found in wheat.
When an individual with celiac disease consumes gluten, an immune reaction occurs. This leads to the deterioration of the specialized cells lining the small intestine. These cells are called villi and their deterioration is termed villous atrophy. The villi aid the absorption of nutrients from the small intestine and when they are unable to work efficiently, the intestine is unable to absorb food effectively.
Celiac symptoms include but are not limited to bloating, flatulence, abdominal cramps, unexplained anemia, nausea and alternating diarrhea and constipation. Complications of celiac disease include an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut and consequently, a yeast infection. This alone can cause fatigue, fluctuations in blood glucose levels and headaches.
As celiac disease symptoms can often be attributed to a range of other medical conditions, it is usual for those with celiac usually endure a wait to be diagnosed. Celiac disease can be diagnosed with a simple blood test in which the blood is inspected for both anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies (often shortened to TGA) and anti-endomysium antibodies (or EMA). These antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system in response to gluten being recognized as present in the intestine.
If these antibodies are found in the bloodstream, it is then necessary for the individual to undergo a gastroscopy, a test to look inside the gut, stomach and first portion of the intestine, and a biopsy, in which cells are taken from the lining of the intestine to check for damage. While a blood test may come back as being free from the aforementioned antibodies, this does not mean that an individual does not have celiac disease. Oftentimes, the biopsy is the greatest investigative test for diagnosis of celiac disease.
An individual with celiac disease can resolve their celiac disease symptoms by adhering to a gluten free diet. Consultation with a dietician is necessary in order to be educated about the types of foods containing gluten. Strict adherence to a gluten-free diet will allow for the healing of the intestines.