What is Celiac Disease? - Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Celiac disease occurs due to the combination of environmental (gluten consumption) and genetic factors that trigger the immunological response in the body.


What is Celiac Disease? - Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Celiac disease (or Gluten Enteropathy) is a digestive system disease that causes deterioration of the structures called villi that provide digestion in the intestines, thus preventing the absorption of nutrients from food and causing damage to the small intestine. This damage is caused by a protein called gluten, which is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and oats.

Celiac disease is a genetic disease. There is familial inheritance. The disease can occur in any part of life. Celiac disease has been observed that happens in childhood, adolescence, middle age, and old age.

Celiac disease occurs due to the combination of environmental (gluten consumption) and genetic factors that trigger the immunological response in the body. It is manifested by consuming gluten foods, which are both genetic predisposition and environmental factors for the formation of celiac disease.

Celiac Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Complications

In some individuals, the disease may have no symptoms or a very mild course for years, and the person may not realize that they have celiac disease for a long time. The condition may start with typical symptoms or may progress with very mild symptoms. In children with celiac disease, it may present with specific symptoms such as abdominal pain, swelling in the abdomen, diarrhea, restlessness, loss of appetite, increase in infections and growth retardation, vomiting, inability to gain weight, and slowed growth in height. Symptoms of the disease spread to a broader range in older ages.

Celiac Symptoms Seen in Adults Include:

  • Forward bloating in the abdomen
  • Weight loss 
  • Muscle weakness
  • Anemia
  • Abnormal intestine movements
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Liver diseases of unknown cause
  • Growth retardation
  • Aphthae in the mouth
  • Loss of appetite, gas complaints
  • Joint and bone pain
  • Irritability
  • Itchy rashes on the skin

Although celiac disease can be diagnosed at any age, it is one of the difficult diseases to diagnose. Because the symptoms often suggest another related disease. For example, it can be confused with diseases such as early osteoporosis, anemia, undiagnosed lactose allergy, as it shows similar symptoms.

Accurate diagnosis is essential because the celiac disease causes many changes that are important to human health. Blood tests, which are among the diagnostic methods, are prediagnosed with special serological tests (AGA, EMA), but the definitive diagnosis is made by small intestine biopsy.

Diseases associated with celiac disease include:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Autoimmune liver disease
  • IgA deficiency
  • Down, Turner, Willians Syndromes.

What are the short- and long-term risks of celiac disease if left untreated?

  • Malabsorption
  • Growth retardation
  • Hypochromic microcytic anemia
  • Megaloblastic anemia
  • Calcium and vitamin K deficiency
  • Increased prevalence of autoimmune diseases
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility, miscarriage
  • Depression
  • Lymphoma
  • Large and small intestines cancers

What is the Treatment for Celiac Disease?

The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict diet free from gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, oat grains for life. Celiac patients should not only consume wheat, barley, rye, oats but also pay attention to the contents of ready-made foods sold in the markets. They should consume gluten-free foods.

A food that is defined as gluten-free other than natural gluten-free is not entirely gluten-free. In other words, a life with zero gluten is impossible. WHO (World Health Organization) and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization-American Food and Agriculture Organization) declared foods containing less than 200 mg of gluten per kilogram as gluten-free food in 1998. However, in 2007 this limit was withdrawn to 20 milligrams. Today, foods that do not contain more than 20 mg of gluten per kilogram are considered gluten-free. The value accepted in 2007 is also used in gluten-free product notification applications in the world.

Safe foods for celiac patients:

  • All vegetables,
  • All fruits,
  • All legumes,
  • All additive-free fats and oils,
  • Eggs, honey, jam, simply granulated sugar, olives,
  • Meat, fish, chicken
  • Canned varieties that are not dipped in flour,
  • Corn, rice, potato, and their flour can be used for food preparation. In addition, chestnut flour, chickpea flour, soybean flour, grape seed flour can also be used.
  • Safe seasonings ground at home.

Foods that should not be consumed in diet therapy for celiac disease:

  • All kinds of products containing wheat, barley, rye, and oats. 
  • Meat products such as chicken and fish dipped in breadcrumbs and fried in flour.
  • Malt drinks, beer, vodka, gin, etc.
  • Ready-made condiments such as gluten-containing soups, meatballs, and breadcrumbs.
  • Some foods such as vinegar, chocolate, pudding, chewing gum, ketchup, mayonnaise, and ice cream may contain gluten. Before they are eaten, information about the product must be obtained.
  • Salted, sauced nuts are prohibited because they are glued with gluten. However, gluten-free, gluten-free nuts are free.

What should be considered in the gluten-free diet?

  • Natural foods should be given importance. (milk-meat-fish-eggs-vegetables-legume-rice-corn-potato)
  • Careful choices must be made when dining at school and out.
  • Attention should be paid to wheat flour mixed cornflour and rice flour.
  • Be very careful when consuming unlabeled food.
  • Medicines, cosmetics, shampoo, creams, etc. It should be used with caution in terms of gluten content.
  • Care should be taken that foods are not mixed with gluten-containing foods during cooking and preparation.