5 Facts About Celiac Disease
What is celiac disease? Celiac disease is a condition that affects the small intestine because of gluten intake. Because only 1 in 100 people have celiac disease, not very many people are all that knowledgeable about it. So I've rounded up five facts that you should know about celiac disease in the event that you find out that you or a loved one is affected by celiac disease.
1. Celiac disease means a person can't eat gluten.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease. It is also sometimes known as coeliac disease, celiac sprue, non-tropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Basically, this is a fancy way of saying that a person with celiac disease can't eat gluten. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, their body's immune system creates antibodies that attack the small intestine. Over time, this reaction can eventually lead to complications, preventing the small intestine from absorbing necessary nutrients.
2. Celiac disease is hereditary.
The good news is that celiac disease is genetic, so there's nothing you can do that will cause you to “catch” the condition. The bad news is that people of any sex, age, or race can develop celiac disease. It is possible to have celiac disease for years without knowing it. Luckily, simple blood tests can help your doctor diagnose the disease.
3. Celiac disease is more common today than it was 60 years ago.
According to the Mayo Clinic, celiac disease is more common than ever, being four times more common than it was in 1950. It is estimated that about 1 in 100 people have celiac disease. Because it is genetic, you're more likely to develop the condition if you have close relatives who have celiac disease. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, about 10% of people who have a parent, child, or sibling with celiac disease have the condition themselves.
4. There's no cure for celiac disease.
Celiac disease isn't cured; it is only treated. Currently, the only way to treat celiac disease is to stick to a gluten-free diet, which generally means cutting out foods with wheat, rye, and barley. This might be a big change, but it is not a life sentence to avoid the foods you love. While bread and pasta are normally made with gluten, some varieties are made from potato, rice, corn, or soy flour and are therefore perfectly fine for someone with celiac disease.
5. Untreated celiac disease can lead to complications.
While starting a gluten-free diet can improve celiac disease within days, eating any gluten can damage the small intestine and cause symptoms again. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, untreated celiac disease can lead to iron deficiency anemia, early-onset osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage, lactose intolerance, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, central and peripheral nervous system disorders, pancreatic insufficiency, gall bladder malfunction, and other long-term health conditions.
Celiac disease might mean a lifetime of gluten-free foods, but the good news is that in most cases the small intestine heals within six months of starting a gluten-free diet. Additionally, fresh foods that haven't been artificially processed like fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish don't contain gluten, and many grocery stores now carry special gluten-free products. A satisfying, happy life (and stomach!) is more possible than ever before.