Celiac Disease

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine because of a sensitivity to gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. This hereditary disorder interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food.

When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. Tiny fingerlike protrusions, called villi, which line the small intestine and enable the absorption of nutrients from food into the bloodstream, are lost. Without these villi, malnutrition occurs, regardless of how much food a person consumes.

Celiac disease is more common in people of European ancestry, Caucasians, and people with type 1 diabetes. More than 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease; however, recent studies have suggested that as many as one in every 133 Americans may have it, and that the disease is underdiagnosed.

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

Celiac disease affects people in different ways. Some persons may develop symptoms as children, whereas others do not experience symptoms until adulthood. Some may have diarrhea and abdominal pains, while others have irritability or depression with the onset of the disease.

While the following are common symptoms of celiac disease, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Recurring abdominal pain and bloating
  • Gas
  • Pale, foul-smelling stool
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Muscle cramps and/or bone pain
  • Pain in the joints
  • Tingling numbness in the legs
  • Delayed growth
  • Fatigue
  • Painful skin rash
  • Missed menstrual periods (which is linked to excessive weight loss)
  • Tooth discoloration or loss of enamel

Sometimes, people with celiac disease are asymptomatic, because the undamaged part of the small intestine is still able to absorb enough nutrients. However, these people are still at risk for complications of the disease. The symptoms of celiac disease may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Living with Celiac Disease

Once a diagnosis has been made, the only treatment to heal the GI tract and improve symptoms is a lifelong adherence to a gluten free diet. Individuals with Celiac Disease enjoy healthy, active lifestyles, not only during everyday activities but during holidays and special events as well. At the Kogan Celiac Center at Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center, we have qualified healthcare professionals who are able to provide a wealth of information and resources to help individuals make the transition to a gluten free diet and long term health. We lead support groups, provide expert education, and develop strategies for cooking, label-reading, dining out and traveling as part of our commitment to supporting patients after diagnosis with celiac disease. Our goal is to help establish positive lifestyle changes and improve quality of life by increasing awareness, expanding knowledge and encouraging self-advocacy for patients, their families and the community at large.

The Kogan Celiac Center, located at the Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center, offers comprehensive testing and treatment for celiac disease for adults and children. The Center is dedicated to providing expert services that include early assessment and diagnosis, treatment, education and support to improve the health and well being of those who live with celiac disease.

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