Celiac disease is a lifelong condition, but many people who have it aren’t properly diagnosed. Receiving an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward starting effective treatment that can alleviate symptoms and prevent serious complications.
In this blog, Manhattan gastroenterologist Dr. Anthony Borcich explains how celiac disease can be treated.
What is celiac disease?
This disease is characterized by an immune reaction to gluten, a protein that’s found in wheat, barley, and rye – as well as in any food that’s made with these grains.
If you have this disease, eating food with gluten in it triggers an immune response in your small intestine. As this happens over time, your small intestine is damaged and can’t do a good job of absorbing nutrients from the food you eat. This damage may also cause symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, anemia, and fatigue.
What causes it?
Its exact cause isn’t yet known, but having certain genes and eating foods with gluten is thought to trigger it. Experts think it may be related to gastrointestinal infections or bacteria, but they’re not sure.
You may have an increased risk of developing celiac disease if you have any of the following:
- A family member who has it
- Type 1 diabetes
- Down syndrome or Turner syndrome
- Addison’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Colitis (inflammation of the colon)
How is celiac disease diagnosed?
A diagnosis is crucial to getting the right type of treatment, but many people with this disease haven’t been diagnosed. Your doctor may order blood tests and/or an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy (EGD) to allow him or her to view your small intestine and take a small tissue sample to look for signs of damage.
What are the treatment options?
There’s not yet a cure for celiac disease, although it can be treated. Since it is a chronic disease, you’ll need to stay on one or more of the following forms of treatment:
- Following a gluten-free diet – A strict gluten-free diet – where only foods and beverages with a gluten content of less than 20 parts per million are allowed – is an important part of treatment. This will give the lining of the small intestine a chance to heal, helping you avoid symptoms as well as further complications.
- Taking vitamins and dietary supplements – If you have celiac disease, you may be deficient in important nutrients such as iron, calcium, fiber, vitamins B and D, magnesium, zinc, and more. As your small intestines heal, you’ll probably be able to properly absorb nutrients again. However, you may still need additional vitamin B (in the form of a multi-vitamin) since a gluten-free diet may not provide enough of this nutrient.
- Checking your bone density –Since celiac disease can make your bones thin, your doctor will probably want to order a bone density test for you. This will determine whether you have signs of osteoporosis, and you may need to take medication and supplements if your bone density is low.
If you’re experiencing symptoms associated with celiac diseases – such as diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, anemia, and fatigue – make an appointment today with Dr. Borcich. He’ll talk to you about your medical history and symptoms and conduct any necessary testing to help diagnose and treat your symptoms.