At a time when the fashion of gluten-free diets is flourishing everywhere in the world (particularly the Western world), it is important to take a serious look at the consequences that this protein can have on your body. Whether you’re talking about simple gluten intolerance or true celiac disease, the symptoms and treatments will be different 1.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, associated with maldigestion and malabsorption of most nutrients and vitamins, such as iron, calcium or folic acid (vitamin B9).
This disease causes villous atrophy (destruction of villi in the small intestine) and is mainly caused by the ingestion of a protein fraction of wheat called “gluten”, more specifically the alcohol-soluble fraction of gluten, called gliadin 2.
How Common Is Celiac Disease Or Is It A Rare Disease?
Approximately 1% of people around the world have Celiac disease. Some 4% of people have an allergy to wheat that is diagnosed by a doctor. Many people now shifting to a gluten-free diet, but they don’t all need to. Around 30 million American adults live without gluten but the concept of the gluten-free diet is quite largely misunderstood. Often people opt for a gluten-free diet even when they have no gluten intolerance or allergy. If you suspect that you are suffering from gluten intolerance, it is better to consult a doctor and take his advice. Do not self medicate or go for a gluten-free diet without taking a specialist opinion.
Moreover, all the cereal grains do not contain gluten such as buckwheat, millet, etc. You also get good nutrition from gluten, so if you are not allergic to it, there is no point going for a gluten-free diet. (3)
The most common symptoms associated with celiac disease may vary from person to person, but most of the common symptoms are as follows:
- Abdominal bloating, the formation of gas, and associated flatulence
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Diarrhea, and nauseating stools
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pallor in case of anemia (iron malabsorption)
- The absence of menstruation
- Ulcers of the mouth (4)
Celiac disease is essentially related to a reaction of the body to gluten absorption in some individuals. Providing a smooth texture to bread and other baked goods or prepared foods, gluten is found in:
- Wheat flour (bread, pastries, etc.)
- Barley flour
- Cold cuts
However, the exact cause of this reaction remains unknown, but it is mostly of immune origin, with a genetic predisposition. It has been highlighted that:
About 95% of patients intolerant to gluten carry one or two specific genes (HLA-DQ2 and/or HLA-DQ8); the close families of these people develop more often the disease (10% of the risk in the first-degree parents). (4)
Diagnosis And Treatment Of Celiac Disease
When celiac disease is suspected, the prophylaxis will be as follows:
- The search for specific antibodies to the disease (anti-transglutaminase) in the blood;
- If this research is positive, your doctor will perform endoscopy with samples (biopsies) on the upper part of the small intestine (duodenum): this must be done before the start of treatment;
- You will experience a remission of symptoms after the introduction of a gluten-free diet.
- There is no specific cure for this disease. The only course of action will be to ban all foods containing gluten for life. For that, it will be necessary to read the labels of the industrial products and to identify the components. (5)
Celiac Disease: Warning
A current evolution of beliefs that could be called “fashion” asserts that gluten is associated with several symptoms, and a large number of people in principle tested non-celiac and non-allergic introduce a gluten-free diet without having a real need for it.
There is no scientific reality about sensitivity or hypersensitivity to gluten, and functional digestive disorders remain common even without gluten.
It is advisable to remain vigilant on the banishment of this or that food, which can cause nutritional deficiencies and important metabolic imbalances. Always talk to your doctor before shifting to any specific diet. (6)
- Green PH, Lebwohl B, Greywoode R. Celiac disease. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2015;135(5):1099-1106.
- Ricaño-Ponce I, Wijmenga C, Gutierrez-Achury J. Genetics of celiac disease. Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology. 2015;29(3):399-412.
- Catassi C, Gatti S, Lionetti E. World perspective and celiac disease epidemiology. Digestive diseases. 2015;33(2):141-146.
- Çaltepe G. The hidden danger: Silent celiac disease. The Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology. 2018;29(5):530.
- Elli L, Branchi F, Tomba C, et al. Diagnosis of gluten related disorders: Celiac disease, wheat allergy and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG. 2015;21(23):7110.
- Castillo NE, Theethira TG, Leffler DA. The present and the future in the diagnosis and management of celiac disease. Gastroenterology report. 2015;3(1):3-11.
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