More Info About Gluten Free Foods
Celiac Sprue Guide
Celiac disease is a kind of condition that damages the small intestine’s lining. The damage is caused by a reaction to consuming gluten. It is a substance that is contained in barley, rye, wheat and possibly oats. Also, it is found in foods that are made out of those ingredients.
When the intestine is damaged, it doesn’t absorb the necessary food components.
It is unknown what celiac disease’s exact cause is. The intestines lining have small areas that are called villi. They project outward into the intestine’s opening. Those structures help with absorbing nutrients.
When individuals with celiac disease consume foods that have gluten in them the reaction from the immune system is to damage the villi.
The damage results in the villi being unable to absorb vitamins, iron or other nutrients properly.
This results in a number of different symptoms as well as health problems potentially occurring. The disease might develop at any time in life, starting at infancy through to late adulthood. Individuals who have members of their family with celiac disease have a higher risk of developing the disease. Individuals of European ancestry and Caucasians most commonly get the disorder. Women are affected more frequently than men are.
It is more likely for individuals with celiac disease to have the following:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Thyroid disease
- Lactose intolerance
- Intestinal lymphoma
- Intestinal cancer
- Down syndrome
- Addison disease
- Autoimmune disorders like Sjogren syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis
Celiac disease symptoms might vary from one individual to the next. That can make it difficult to diagnose. For example, one individual might have issues with stools, another might have diarrhea, and yet another might have constipation.
Gastrointestinal symptoms might include the following:
- Unexplained weight loss (although individuals might be of average weight or overweight)
- Stools that stick onto the toilet when it is flush, oily or foul smelling
- Vomiting and nausea
- Lactose intolerance (common whenever an individual is diagnosed, frequently goes away after being treated)
- Diarrhea, either on and off or constant
- Decreased appetite (might also be unchanged or increased)
- Indigestion, gas, bloating or abdominal pain
Other problems that might develop over time due to the intestines not absorbing key nutrients include the following:
- Easy bruising
- Depression or anxiety
- Growth delay in children
- Hair loss
- Itchy skin with a rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
- Missed menstrual periods
- Mouth ulcers
- Muscle cramps and joint pain
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- Unexplained short height
Children with celiac disease might have the following:
- Shorter than regular height for their age and slowed growth
- Poor weight gain
- Fussy and irritable behavior
- Vomiting, nausea, foul-smelling or fatty stools, constipation or diarrhea
- Delayed puberty
- Tooth color changes and tooth enamel defects
Tests and Exams
The following tests might be performed:
- Vitamin D level
- Vitamin B12 level (serum)
- Prothrombin time
- Iron level (serum)
- Folate level (serum)
- Comprehensive metabolic panel
- Complete blood count (anemia test)
- Cholesterol (might be low)
- Bone density
Blood tests may detect antibodies, called anti-endomysial antibodies (EMA) or anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTGA) which can help to detect this condition. If it is suspected that you have celiac disease, these antibody tests can be ordered by your health care provider.
If the tests come back positive, then an upper endoscopy will frequently be performed to sample tissue (a biopsy) out of the first section of the small intestine (duodenum). One thing that might be shown by the biopsy is a flattening of the villi in those parts of the intestine beneath the duodenum.
Another test that can be done is genetic testing of your blood to determine if you might be at risk for celiac disease.
Several months after being diagnosed and treated, a blood test or follow-up biopsy might be ordered. The tests are for assessing how well the treatment is working. If there are normal results, then that means you have responded positively to treatment and the diagnosis is confirmed. However, that doesn’t mean the disease is cured.
Celiac disease is unable to be cured. If you follow a gluten-free diet for life, your symptoms will disappear, and the villi within your intestine’s lining will heal. Do not drink beverages or eat foods or take medicines containing rye, barley, wheat and possibly oats. Visit for a checklist of gluten intolerance symptoms.
You will need to carefully read drug and food labels carefully to see if any of the ingredients might include those grains. Due to how common barley and wheat grains are in the American diet it might be difficult to stick to a gluten-free diet. Most people over time can adapt and improve. You shouldn’t start on a gluten-free diet until you have been diagnosed. If you start the diet, it will affect the testing process for the disease.
In a majority of cases, the only treatment that you will need for staying well is to follow a gluten-free, well-balanced diet. Your health care provider might need to prescribe mineral and vitamin supplements.
Sometimes using corticosteroids (like prednisone) over the short-term might be necessary if spue doesn’t respond to treatment.
After you have been diagnosed, get assistance from a registered dietitian with a specialty in the gluten-free diet and celiac disease. A support group might also help you with coping with the diet and disease.
When a gluten-free diet is followed, it heals intestinal damage and prevents further damage from occurring. In children, the healing most frequently will happen within 3-6 months. In adults, recovery might take 2 to 3 years.
In rare cases, long-term damage will occur in the intestine’s lining before being diagnosed.
There are some problems that celiac disease causes that might not improve, like damage to the teeth and shorter height than expected.
You need to continue carefully following the gluten-free diet. If untreated, life-threatening complications might be caused by the disease.
Not following the gluten-free diet or delaying diagnosis puts you at risk for the following related conditions:
- Liver disease
- Repeated miscarriage or infertility
- Low blood count (anemia)
- Certain kinds of intestinal cancer
- Bone diseases (fractures, kyphoscoliosis, osteoporosis)
- Autoimmune disorders
When a Medical Professional Should Be Contacted
If you have any celiac disease symptoms call your provider
Since the exact cause is not known, there is no proven way for preventing celiac disease from developing. However, being aware of what the risk factors are (like a member of your family having the disorder) might increase your chances of being diagnosed early, getting treated, and living a long and healthy life.
- Gluten-free diet celiac disease
- Gluten intolerance
- Nontropical spru
- Gluten-sensitive enteropathy