Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine when gluten is consumed. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, their immune system attacks the small intestine, damaging the villi, which are small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine. This damage makes it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients from food, leading to a host of symptoms.
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The exact prevalence of celiac disease is not known, but it is estimated to affect around 1% of the population. In this blog post, we will be exploring the symptoms of celiac disease and what to look out for if you suspect you may have it.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine and is triggered by the consumption of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Common symptoms of celiac disease include:
- Gastrointestinal symptoms: diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and nausea.
- Non-gastrointestinal symptoms: fatigue, anemia, weight loss, skin rashes, bone or joint pain, and depression or anxiety.
- Other symptoms: canker sores, tooth discoloration or loss of enamel, tingling numbness in the hands and feet, missed menstrual periods, and infertility or recurrent miscarriage.
Variance in Symptoms
Celiac disease can present differently in different individuals, which can make it very difficult to diagnose. Some people may have only a few symptoms, while others may have a wide range of symptoms. Additionally, some people may have no symptoms at all.
One reason for the variability in symptoms is that the severity of the immune response to gluten can vary from person to person. Some people may have a strong immune response to gluten, leading to severe symptoms, while others may have a milder response, leading to milder symptoms or no symptoms at all. This is why some people with celiac disease may be bedridden with even the smallest exposure to gluten, while others may only have as much as a mild stomachache.
Another reason for the variability in symptoms is that celiac disease can affect different parts of the body. Some people may have primarily gastrointestinal symptoms, while others may have mostly non-gastrointestinal symptoms. Additionally, some people may have both gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal symptoms.
It is also important to note that some people may not experience symptoms for years or even decades after developing the condition. This is why some people may not be diagnosed until later in life. This can make it especially difficult to diagnose as an individual without symptoms likely has no way of knowing they’re reacting to gluten at all.
Possible Links to Other Conditions
Celiac disease can be linked to other conditions in addition to the symptoms it causes in the gastrointestinal tract. These conditions are related to malabsorption of nutrients due to damage in the small intestine. Here are a few examples:
- Osteoporosis: Malabsorption of nutrients such as calcium and Vitamin D can cause bone loss and increase the risk of osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weak and fragile.
- Infertility: Celiac disease can affect fertility in both men and women. In women, malabsorption of nutrients can cause irregular menstrual cycles and increase the risk of miscarriage. In men, it can lead to low sperm count and poor sperm motility.
- Neurological disorders: Celiac disease is associated with a number of neurological disorders, including ataxia (loss of muscle control), neuropathy (nerve damage), and epilepsy. These disorders may be caused by malabsorption of nutrients and/or inflammation in the nervous system.
- Other autoimmune conditions: Celiac disease is closely linked to other autoimmune conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroiditis, and autoimmune liver disease, to name a few.
It is important to note that not all individuals with celiac disease will develop these conditions, but having celiac disease may increase the risk for some conditions. It is important to be aware of these potential complications, and to work closely with a healthcare professional to manage the condition and reduce the risk of these complications.
There are two primary diagnostic tests available for celiac disease. The most commonly used tests include:
- Blood tests: Blood tests can be used to detect antibodies that are present in the blood of people with celiac disease. These antibodies are produced by the immune system in response to gluten. Blood tests include tissue transglutaminase (TTG) IgA and endomysial (EMA) IgA. These tests are reliable for detecting celiac disease, however, a negative test does not rule out the condition.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of tissue is taken from the small intestine. This sample is then examined under a microscope to look for damage to the villi, which are small finger-like projections that line the small intestine. A biopsy is considered the gold standard in Canada for diagnosing celiac disease.
If you suspect you have celiac disease, it is important to get tested. If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to malabsorption of nutrients, which can result in a wide range of health problems, including anemia, osteoporosis, and even cancer. Additionally, it is important to be properly diagnosed because following a gluten-free diet is a lifelong commitment and it can be difficult to stick to. A proper diagnosis can also help rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine and is triggered by the consumption of gluten. Common symptoms of celiac disease include gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, gas and non-gastrointestinal symptoms such as fatigue, anemia, weight loss, and skin rashes. It is important to note that not all individuals with celiac disease will experience all of these symptoms and some may have milder symptoms or no symptoms at all. The severity and presentation of symptoms can vary widely.
Celiac disease can also be linked to other conditions such as osteoporosis, infertility, neurological disorders and other autoimmune conditions. Diagnostic tests for celiac disease include blood tests, biopsy and it is considered the gold standard for diagnosis.
It is important to be aware of the symptoms of celiac disease, as it can lead to malabsorption of nutrients and a wide range of health problems if left untreated.
If you suspect you may have celiac disease, it is important to speak with your healthcare professional as soon as possible. Celiac disease can only be diagnosed with proper medical testing under the guidance of a medical professional.