Celiac disease, also called celiac sprue, is a digestive isorder that occurs when an individual's immune system overreacts to the protein gluten, found in grains including wheat, rye, barley, and to some degree, oats. When a patient with the disease eats food that contains gluten, the immune system's response damages the intestinal lining and symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea typically occur. Nutrient aborption is decreased and fatigue and unhealthy weight loss typically follow.
Researchers believe that many cases of celiac disease are inherited. In fact, it is estimated that if someone in a patient's immediate family (parent or sibling) has celiac disease, the patient has a 5-15% chance of developing the disease as well. Trauma may also be a cause. It appears that many cases of celiac disease develop after trauma, such as an infection, stress, physical injury, surgery, or pregnancy.
There are many symptoms that can result from this disease, they include: weight loss, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, gas, bloating, fatigue, foul-smelling or grayish stools that may be oil, stunted growth in children, and osteoporosis. Interestingly, patients may not have any of the digestive symptoms however develop a skin conditions called dermatitis herpetiformis. This is a painful skin rash that can be mistaken for eczema or psoriasis.
Patients that avoid gluten containing food can expect to live normal, healthy lives. Symptoms will subside within several weeks and patients will be able to absorb food normally, however it may take several months in children and 2-3 years in elderly patients for the intestine to fully recover.
In severe cases that do not respond to gluten-elimination, doctors will prescribed immunosuppressive therapy with corticosteriods.
Nutritional deficiencies resulting from covert celiac disease should be assessed and corrected in all patients. This includes vitamins and mineral lost from malabsorption. Food intolerance testing can be very helpful in assessing any other non-gluten containing foods that may be contributing to the overall health of the digestive tract. Both of these tests can be performed at KIH Clinic with one of our qualified Naturopathic Doctors.
Diet recommendations and menu planning are often very helpful for people with this condition who have a hard time knowing what they are able to eat. Putting it into a practical plan can often be just what they need. Leora Barak, Holistic Nutritionist has a lot of experience formulating nutritional programs based on the condition as well as the patients overall nutritional profile. Contact her here for more information: KIH Holistic Nutritionist.