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Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder (your body overreacts to something within your body) that damages your small intestine and interferes with food absorption. Individuals with Celiac disease cannot ingest (eat) food or drink that contains gluten (found in wheat, rye and barley). If gluten is ingested, the body reacts by creating a damaging attack on the small intestine where nutrients from food are absorbed.

Symptoms of Celiac disease vary but include similar findings of malnutrition. In children, failure to grow, weight loss and symptoms of diarrhea or constipation may occur. In adults, common symptoms are chronic diarrhea with abdominal pain/bloating/gas, weakness/fatigue and weight loss. Less common symptoms can include osteoporosis, muscle cramps, aphthous sores (canker sores), seizures or behavior changes. Some individuals have few symptoms, but can still suffer the effects of malnutrition.

Celiac is identified in several ways. A blood test may be performed to look for antibodies (what your body produces in reaction to something) produced in response to gluten. Some individuals require additional testing if blood tests are not conclusive and symptoms persist. In these cases, an Upper Endoscopy may be recommended. An Upper Endoscopy is a procedure performed under sedation. Your physician will insert a small tube into your esophagus to take biopsies of your intestinal lining to help confirm the presence of Celiac disease.

Treatment for Celiac disease is life-long avoidance of gluten in your diet. In most cases, once gluten is removed, your body will begin to heal the damage caused in the small intestine and further damage will not occur. However, even small amounts of gluten ingested periodically can cause further damage. Non-adherence to a gluten free diet can lead to malnutrition and even cancer such as lymphoma and adenocarcinoma in the small intestine.

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