What one eats can be a problem sometimes… We have all heard about allergy to milk and milk products. Now more and more people all over the world, including India, are waking up to something called Celiac disease. One out of 133 people in the world are affected with the disease, yet 97% of these people go undiagnosed. Celiac Disease can be classified into classic, atypical, silent or latent disease. Seen with diabetes, it is often silent, exhibiting no symptoms at all, and may only be found upon screening. Celiac disease is considered an autoimmune disorder because the cause of the symptoms and the damage to the patient’s intestines is due primarily to an individual’s immune system.
Thyroid , a certain type of diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are other examples of auto immune disorders the body suffers from. Celiac Disease is basically triggered by gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is found in many common foods that we eat such as flour, so you can find it in biscuits, cookies, crackers, cakes and cereals. In addition, there are also hidden sources of gluten in foods like soy sauce and salad dressings.
Gluten damages the small intestines of Celiacs, decreasing its ability to absorb nutrients. The damage occurs due to undigested wheat proteins rather than an allergic reaction. Scientists still don’t know what is the cause of the excessive immune response to wheat, rye, and barley in certain individuals.
Celiac disease causes a large has a number of serious symptoms apart from gastrointestinal distress like Iron deficiency anemia, infertility, psychiatric disorders and various neurological conditions like seizures.
India is reporting a higher incidence of celiac disease. Experts feel that this may be linked to different new strains of wheat coming into the market.
Celiac disease has linkages with other auto immune disorders. If you are suffering from diabetes or thyroid diseases , you are at a higher risk for developing Celiac disease, warn the experts. The prevalence of celiac disease in children with type 1 diabetes mellitus is estimated to be between 5%–10%.
So, if you have type 1 diabetes and have any of the symptoms of celiac disease, it is probably best to discuss this with your doctor. A delay in diagnosis of celiac disease can be dangerous, warn doctors. It can lead to an increase in the chance of developing other autoimmune diseases, along with high risk of osteoporosis, anemia and some cancers.
Why Is It Difficult To Diagnose This Disorder
The most common symptoms of this disorder are very non specific like bloating, flatulence, gas. Lots of people experience these symptoms at one time in their life or another. And because the symptoms of this disorder are so non specific, it tends to go undiagnosed.
What makes the diagnosis of celiac disease even more difficult is the fact that some people do not even experience any of the above gastrointestinal symptoms. So doctors go blind sometimes while diagnosing this disorder.
Infact, Celiac disease has the highest chance to be missed by the doctor you may go to.
Myths like the disorder happens only Europe and other Western countries, don’t help either. The reality, however is different. The disorder is extremely prevalent in India, especially North India. This disorder affects children and adults, equally.
So while doctors consider the disease ‘rare’ and look for only the ‘classic presentation’ in children, the numbers of celiacs continues to grow at An alarming rate and so does the suffering due to wrong and late diagnosis.
Diagnosis Of Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is diagnosed by a blood test which measures specific antibodies in blood. And if those are positive, then an intestinal biopsy is conducted in which the small intestine is examined to determine if there has been any damage.
Treatment Of Celiac Disease
The only treatment for the disorder is a gluten free diet. Doctors advise eating a diet which does not contain wheat, rye, barley and their products, since these contain gluten.
However, compliance to a gluten –free diet is extremely low among patients. The main reasons are taste, inadequate food labelling and possible cross contamination with gluten. These are major challenges for patients on a gluten free diet.
Sometimes, celiacs have a tendency to binge on gluten containing diets . However , this needs to be avoided at all costs because even a small quantity of gluten can damage the intestines. And remember, this damage is irreversible!
Patients also need to be careful against unintentional gluten ingestion. They should take extreme care when eating outside. And last but not the least, the celiacs must read the label on food products before purchasing them.
Celiacs need to understand that a gluten free diet may seem dull, tasteless and hard to comply with, but it is the only treatment for Celiac disease. Compliance with the diet means that the patient starts feeling healthy within a short time of switching to a gluten free diet. Celiacs are advised to work closely with their doctors, dietitians and family to live life to the fullest.
Coping With Celiac Disease
Getting a positive diagnosis for Celiac disease can be shattering. Living with the disorder can be a huge challenge. But in the long run, managing this disease does become easier. In the meantime, we give some tips to live with celiac disease, if you have been just diagnosed with the disorder and are feeling completely befuddled
Know as much as you can about Celiac Disease. This is the first step towards living a healthy life as a Celiac. Gather information about the disease by talking to your doctor, read books and surf the internet for information. Join a Celiac Disease support group. This will help you meet others with celiac disease.
And the benefits of doing this are manifold- this offers you the opportunity to benefit from the experiences of all the members in the group. Seeing how others handle celiac can be a great source of hope for you. You may join a support group on the internet and participate in online discussion forums. Carry gluten –free snacks at all times. Keep gluten-free snacks with you all the times. This will prevent you snacking on non gluten food.