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Celiac Disease - it's not just gluten intolerance

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Updated on May 13, 2016

I’m sure you have heard of the gluten-free diet by now, everyone and their mother seems to be on it. The idea of gluten-free originated with Celiac disease. The disease is an autoimmune disorder that has a genetic component. Meaning if someone in your family has it, you are more susceptible to it because of your DNA. People who have Celiac disease cannot ingest gluten because it damages their small intestine. This is much more than being gluten intolerant, it is a serious disease that affects one in 100 people around the world.

Are You at Risk for Celiac Disease?

Since Celiac disease is based on your genetics, it is a good idea to check around with family members to see who has this condition. If you have a first-degree relative ( a sibling, parent, or a child), then you have a one in 10 chance risk of developing the disease. It is the unlucky genetic lottery as there is not much you can do about it to prevent it from happening.

Celiac Disease and Your Body

The good news is Celiac disease will not kill you and most people go on to live a pretty normal life. There is no cure yet, but eating a strict gluten-free diet reduces the damage to your small intestines. To be gluten-free you must avoid foods that have rye, barley, and wheat in them. The major foods to watch out for are breads or beer, so you may have to stick to a strict diet of whiskey, vodka, and gin, or a diet that your doctor recommends.

What Happens if You Decide Not to be Gluten-Free?

Let’s say the whole gluten-free thing doesn’t appeal to you and you keep eating as if you don’t have Celiac disease. This can have serious long-term health effects that will affect your quality of life. Some of these health effects include:

  • Mineral and vitamin deficiencies
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriages
  • Osteoporosis or osteopenia
  • Central nervous system disorders
  • Peripheral nervous system disorders
  • Malignant gastrointestinal cancers
  • Neurological symptoms such as dementia, migraines, seizures
  • Gall bladder malfunction

Since none of these sound pleasant, it is best to stick to a strict gluten-free diet, as long as your doctor says it is okay.

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When Did Celiac Disease Start?

We have been hearing a lot about Celiac disease in the news lately because it is a relatively new disease. The genetic markers of Celiac disease were recently identified in the 1990s. Before that, it was primarily in the 1920s and 1930s when the connection between Celiac disease and wheat was discovered. Doctors and health professionals are learning more about the disease every day, which is why it seems more prevalent lately.

What About Medications?

For most people, going gluten-free helps

helps relieve their pain and discomfort from Celiac disease. Yet, five percent of those who have it do not experience any relief from a gluten-free diet. This is where medications come in. Steroids or immunosuppressant medications may be prescribed by a doctor if the disease does not get better after a certain period of time. Sometimes people with Celiac have a skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis. If this is the case, the doctor may prescribe a medication called dapsone that is specific to help that rash.

Celiac disease is much more than being gluten intolerant as eating any gluten can cause serious damage to the small intestine. Since it is genetic, check with your family members to see who have been diagnosed and what works for them. Also, search through the database to find the medication dapsone, steroids, or immuno-suppressants at a reduced price.