What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease (also known as Celiac Sprue) is an immune reaction to eating gluten. For individuals with celiac disease, ingestion of the gluten causes damage to the small intestine, which is where the body absorbs many of its nutrients. It is estimated that one in one hundred people are affected by celiac disease worldwide.

What is Gluten? 

Gluten is a protein that helps foods preserve their shape. It is found in many types of substances, including

  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Durum
  • Einkorn
  • Emmer
  • Farina
  • Faro
  • Fu
  • Gliadin
  • Graham Flour
  • Kamut
  • Matzo
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Triticale
  • Wheat Starch/Bran/Germ

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly, but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Abdominal pain, gas, and bloating
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Delayed puberty and growth
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Skin rash
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

If a patient has malabsorption, he or she may be deficient in certain vitamins such as B12 or fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). If left untreated, celiac disease can bring on a number of adverse side effects, such as fatigue, digestive problems, constant weight loss, and nutritional deficiencies.

How is a Diagnosis Made? 

A blood test is a non-invasive screening tool to diagnose celiac disease, but a definitive diagnosis is made by a small bowel biopsy. This is accomplished by performing an upper endoscopy, or EGD, in which a gastroenterologist uses a camera to look at the intestines while the patient is sedated. A biopsy of the small intestine will confirm the diagnosis.

How is Celiac Disease Treated?

Celiac disease is usually treated by changing your diet so that no foods or substances containing gluten are ingested. Once this happens, the symptoms will usually improve within a few weeks or months, depending on their severity. In some rare cases, if the symptoms do not improve following dietary modification, the doctor may need to prescribe an immunosuppressive medication.

Treatment is important because celiac disease can lead to long-term problems. These include osteoporosis, joint problems, and electrolyte and vitamin deficiencies. There is even a small risk of cancer associated with this disease.

What Does a Gluten-Free Diet Look Like? 

There is a myriad of delicious replacements to gluten on the majority of menus. Plenty of foods are naturally gluten-free, including:

  • Beans
  • Chicken
  • Corn
  • Diary products
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Fruits
  • Lean beef
  • Legumes
  • Rice
  • Vegetables

What is Gluten Sensitivity? 

Not everyone who has problems with gluten has celiac disease. There is also a condition known as gluten intolerance or sensitivity, which is distinct from celiac. These patients often have similar symptoms but test negative for celiac disease. Gluten intolerance can cause gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and other similar symptoms, but does not include the long-term risks associated with celiac disease.

Treatment for gluten sensitivity is the same as for celiac disease: the avoidance of gluten. Unfortunately, there is no test to prove that a patient has gluten sensitivity. The diagnosis is made based on medical history and ruling out true celiac disease.

Questions about Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity?

If you have any questions about celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, or if you suspect that it may be affecting you, we encourage you to reach out to us at Digestive Healthcare Center. Our doctors are experts in recognizing and treating digestive health conditions in New Jersey, and will work with you to determine their cause and provide relief. If you can’t make it to one of our offices, we offer convenient telemedicine virtual visits where you can meet with a DHC physician from the comfort of your own home. To schedule an appointment or to learn more about our gastroenterology services, please contact us today.

Digestive Health Care and Treatment in New Jersey

We are proud to provide comprehensive digestive health care to those in Somerset County and the surrounding areas. Most of our procedures are performed at our Hillsborough office and surgical center, but we also see patients at our offices in Somerville and Warren. We look forward to helping you stay on top of your digestive health!