Celiac disease and gluten-free

Celiac disease, also spelled Coeliac disease, is an autoimmune disorder that usually affects the intestine. Celiac disease occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages. In sufferers, gluten and other proteins found principally in wheat, barley and rye cause the immune system to cross-react with bowel tissue, triggering an inflammatory and damaging reaction.

Symptoms include chronic abdominal pain, cramping, variable bowel habit, diarrhea, constipation and fatigue. Vitamin deficiencies are often noted in people with Celiac disease as a result of the reduced ability of their intestine to absorb nutrients from food.

Blood tests are the first-line investigation by a gastroenterologist in order to screen for Celiac disease. An endoscopy procedure with biopsy is often carried out afterwards to confirm the diagnosis.

At present the only effective treatment for someone with Celiac disease is through nutrition by adopting a lifelong gluten-free diet. And it is essential to avoid other gluten exposures.

Celiac disease is reported to affect less than 1 in 133 Americans, that’s about three-quarters of 1%, or approximately 2.5 million people in the U.S.

Notably, a gluten-free diet has at best only a minimal beneficial effect for those non-Celiac disease sufferers of other irritable and inflammatory bowel disorders, like IBS and IBD. And this appears to be related to the carbohydrates in which the gluten is found, not the gluten itself.

For more information on Celiac Disease, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coeliac_disease

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