One in 100 people is estimated to be affected by an autoimmune condition in which the intestine becomes damaged when food products that contain gluten are consumed. This condition is known as celiac disease and it can cause long-term health effects.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, those affected by celiac disease have intolerance to the gluten protein – found in wheat, barley and rye. When foods that contain gluten are consumed by someone with celiac disease, their immune system responds by attacking the small intestine. Symptoms of celiac disease can include pain and bloating in the stomach area, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, anemia and weight loss.
“Over time, celiac disease can cause damage to the lining of the intestine and prevent the body from properly absorbing important nutrients from one’s diet,” said Srikar S. Reddy, M.D., a specialist in gastroenterology on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center. “Celiac disease can also increase the risk for certain other health conditions, including cancers of the small bowel and coronary artery disease and lead to issues with the gall bladder, pancreas and neurological system.”
An individual’s risk for celiac disease is increased if someone in their immediate family has the condition. In fact, the Celiac Disease Foundation estimates that one in 10 people whose parent, child or sibling has the disease are themselves at risk.
Treatment for celiac disease is simple, yet challenging. Those with the condition must adhere to a strict diet known as gluten-free, avoiding foods that contain gluten. This means steering clear of certain breads, pasta, cereals, dressings and beer. Fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, dairy products and beans are among the foods that can be consumed as part of a gluten-free diet. Many food items are now specifically labeled as gluten-free to help consumers make wise decisions.
Those who have symptoms consistent with celiac disease and are concerned about their risk are encouraged to speak to their physician to obtain appropriate testing. You may also visit the Celiac Disease Foundation and take a screening assessment quiz.
Srikar S. Reddy, M.D.
is a specialist in gastroenterology who is associated with Mid-South Gastroenterology Associates and a member of the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, Tennessee. He is board certified in gastroenterology.