Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease is a genetic autoimmune disease that mainly affects the intestines. Individuals with celiac disease have an adverse reaction to foods that contain gluten. Gluten is a protein found in 3 main types of grains: wheat, rye, and barley. When individuals with celiac disease eat foods containing this protein, the immune system reacts by releasing autoantibodies, which destroy the lining of the intestines. This can prevent nutrients from being absorbed, which can lead to malnutrition.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Symptoms of this disease can be different for everyone and can occur in parts of the body other than the intestines: 

  • Bloating and stomach pain
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
  • Bone loss or osteoporosis
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (rash)

Diagnosis and Treatment of Celiac Disease

Only a medical doctor can diagnose celiac disease through a variety of tests. These tests include blood tests, which test for the presence of specific antibodies, and intestinal biopsies. Once diagnosed, the only treatment is a gluten-free diet and avoidance of products that contain gluten, such as certain medications, lip balms, and lotions.

Gluten-Free Diet

A person diagnosed with Celiac Disease must follow a gluten-free diet, which means avoiding any food products containing wheat, rye, or barley. That means that individuals with celiac disease should not eat most grains, pasta, cereal, and processed foods. This may present a challenge for many people, though with planning and including appropriate substitutions for gluten containing foods, individuals can follow a well-balanced, healthful eating pattern. Learning to read food labels and knowing what is in a food item is key to managing this disease.

If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease and would like help learning about adopting a healthy lifestyle, make an appointment with a dietitian at the UHC today!

Information on Celiac Disease:
EatRight.org: Celiac Disease – An Introduction
NIH: What I Need to Know about Celiac Disease

Information on food sources of gluten and a gluten-free diet:
Celiac Disease Foundation: Sources of Gluten
EatRight.org: Processed Foods that May Contain Wheat, Rye, and Barley
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness: The Gluten-Free Diet

Celiac Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease/Pages/facts.aspx. September 2008. Updated January 27, 2012. Accessed August 11, 2015.