Wholesome Dwelling: Celiac Consciousness Week

This week is International Celiac Disease Awareness Week. According to the Celiac Society of Ireland (www.coeliac.ie), 1 in 100 people has the disease, but for each person diagnosed, there is likely to be 5-10 people left undiagnosed.

While celiac disease affects only 1% of the population, it is believed that up to 13% are gluten intolerant. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, spelled, barley, and most foods, but it can also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, creams, and lip balms.

Celiac disease is both a malabsorption disease – which means that nutrients are not properly absorbed – and an abnormal immune response to gluten. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products that contain gluten, their immune systems react or destroy the villi – the tiny, finger-like protrusions that line the small intestine.

In the villi, nutrients from food can normally be absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the small intestine. Without healthy villi, no matter how much a person eats, a person will be malnourished.

Celiac disease is genetic, which means it runs in families. Sometimes the disease is triggered or becomes active for the first time after an operation, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress. It’s also more common in people with other genetic disorders, including Down syndrome and Turner syndrome, and a growing body of evidence suggests that there is a strong link between autism spectrum disorders and celiac disease. Celiac patients also tend to have other autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or autoimmune thyroiditis.

Symptoms vary from person to person and do not always show up as a digestive disorder, so it is often undiagnosed. Digestive disorders are more common in infants and young children, and the resulting malabsorption leads to growth and development delays. Adults have fewer digestive symptoms, but due to severe malabsorption, the rest of the body systems would develop deficiencies leading to anemia, osteoporosis, mouth ulcers, fatigue, anxiety, and skin problems – to name a few.

Researchers are studying the reasons celiac disease affects people differently. The length of time a person has been breastfed, the age at which a person started eating gluten-containing foods, and the amount of gluten-containing foods one eats are three factors that are believed to play a role in when and how celiac disease occurs. For example, some studies have shown that the longer a person has been breastfed, the later the symptoms of celiac disease appear. Symptoms also vary depending on a person’s age and the degree of damage to the small intestine.

For celiac patients, the only cure is to strictly avoid all gluten-containing products. The restoration of the intestinal wall can then be supported with certain dietary supplements.

It’s easy to find out if you have celiac disease or an intolerance to gluten, wheat, or other foods. Celiac Disease can be diagnosed easily; It will be a blood sample from your GP, followed by a biopsy. For more information on gluten sensitivity and food intolerance testing options, please visit my website: www.evahillnutrition.com

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