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Gluten Free Friday – What is Celiac Disease? June 17, 2011

Filed under: Food — Lizz @ 12:35 pm
Tags: ,

Welcome to our very first installment of Gluten Free Friday!


Since Skylar’s recent diagnosis of Celiac Disease, I have been ravenously studying the ins and outs of the disease and being on a gluten free diet.  There is so much information out there!  And to be honest it’s a bit overwhelming.  I figure the best way to sort through is to take it one step at a time.  So we’re going to start our segment with some of the most common first questions people ask:


What is Celiac Disease?


Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease.  When gluten is consumed by a person with Celiac Disease, the gluten becomes toxic in their system, and begins destroying the small intestines.  


What is Gluten?


Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.  Wheat flour (for example) is very commonly used in many recipes (especially to create doughs), because the gluten in the wheat is the “glue” that holds everything together. 


How does gluten affect someone with Celiac Disease?


The small intestines are responsible for absorption of nutrients.  Within the small intestine are very small fingerlike hairs, called villi, that actually perform this absorption.  When gluten is consumed by someone with Celiac, the gluten attacks and destroys the villi.  When villi are damaged, they are unable to absorb nutrients, causing malnutrition.  This can also lead to issues such as stunted growth, weight loss, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, osteoporosis, anemia, depression, infertility, miscarriage, and cancer.


What are the symptoms of Celiac Disease?


This is a very difficult question.  There are over 300 symptoms of Celiac Disease.  One person could display tons of symptoms, like abdominal pain, diarrhea, skin rashes, weight loss, lactose intolerance, ect, while another might show opposite symptoms like constipation, and weight gain.  And still another person might not show any symptoms at all!  Herein lies the biggest problem with diagnosing this disease.  Celiac can look like so many other things, or a person could feel totally healthy.  Doctors are becoming more and more aware, but there’s still a lot of undiagnosed cases out there.


How do you know if you have Celiac Disease?


The only way to be sure is to have a series of blood tests, and then confirm with a biopsy.  The initial blood tests will look for the antibodies created by the gluten attacking the body.  If these tests come back positive, an EGD (also called an upper endoscopy) will be preformed.  A biopsy will be taken in the duodenum (the area that connects the stomach to the small intestines).  The biopsy will show if there is any damage being done.  Using both the blood tests and the biopsy results, the doctor can determine if a diagnosis of Celiac Disease is appropriate.


What is the treatment for Celiac Disease?


Right now, there is only one treatment for Celiac: going on a gluten free diet.  A person with Celiac must remove all products containing gluten from their diet.  This will include most processed foods, many medications, and even some non-food items (like toothpaste).  These products can be replaced with natural foods, or items that have been determined to be gluten free.  As Celiac Disease has been better diagnosed, awareness has also increase.  There are many more gluten free options everywhere you go.  Stores are creating gluten free sections, or offering the products clearly labeled throughout the store.  Brand name companies are coming out with gluten free products.  Many restaurants have gluten free menus.  There are now gluten free bakeries.  There’s even a gluten free store right down the street from my house.  So not to worry, there are plenty of food choices out there.

I have heard rumor that “they” are working on a medication to treat Celiac Disease.  All we can do at this point is sit back and wait for that option to come about.


How do you get Celiac Disease?


This is another question that is a little bit difficult to answer.  Celiac Disease is genetic.  There is a gene that 98% of people with Celiac have.  If you have this test done, and you do have the gene, your genetic makeup will put you into 1 of 8 categories.  These categories will rank the risk of developing the disease, 1 being very low risk and 8 being extreme high risk (Skylar is in the 8 category).  You must remember though, having the gene does not mean you have Celiac.  It mearly means you have the potential.

As far as who develops the disease and who doesn’t, that is the part that seems to be unknown at this point.  In my researching, I haven’t found an answer to this.  If you know something I don’t, please feel free to share.

Since we are talking about the genetics of this disease, there is something else that is noteworthy.  When someone is diagnosed with Celiac, the doctor will generally ask to then test the 1st degree family members.  Remember how some Celiacs do not show symptoms?  If someone’s mother/father/sister/brother tests positive, there is an increased chance that person is right in line with them, but has no idea. 


Whew!  I think that covers most of the basic first questions about Celiac Disease.  If you have read this all the way to the end, I commend you!  I hope you found this informative and helpful.  I look forward to sharing more of the infinite information I have uncovered with all of you. 


If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!  If you have more information, please feel free to share!  If you write a gluten free blog, please feel free to promote yourself!  It’s all about helping each other out around here.  Please come back next week for more GF info.  Maybe something with a little less reading?


Thanks for stopping by, and have a wonderful gluten-free day!!





6 Responses to “Gluten Free Friday – What is Celiac Disease?”

  1. Mom aka Grammy Says:

    Great information Lizz! This affects the entire family – not just the immediate family – but extended family as well. We ALL need to learn about these foods – and non food items. I just ordered a book from Amazon called The Gluten Free Shopping Guide 2011-2012 to assist us with keeping Skylar gluten free when she is with us. Because she is with us alot, we must be educated as well.

    Cross contamination is going to be the most difficult aspevt – especially when we are outside the home i.e. restauarants, parties etc….

  2. I love that you posted all this; I think it’ll help a lot of people out!
    You know I’ll help in any way that I can, starting with that gluten free mac and cheese recipe… seriously, it rocked.

  3. Nice articles. Greetings from Scotland to you!

    • Lizz Says:

      Wow! Thank you. I love knowing that my little blog has made it all the way across the pond! I hope you come back to see more of our Gluten Free Fridays!

  4. […] Gluten Free Friday – Brand Names Gone GF June 24, 2011 Filed under: Food,Gluten Free Friday — Lizz @ 7:50 am Tags: Celiac Disease, Gluten Free Friday, Making Life Easier Welcome to our second installment of Gluten Free Friday!  If you missed our post from last week (where we went through lots of the first questions that people ask about Celiac Disease and being Gluten Free)  Please feel free to take a moment and read it *here* […]

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