What is Celiac Disease?

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Fewer than one percent of Americans have celiac disease, yet many people are cutting out gluten from their diet. What is celiac disease, and should you stop eating gluten even if you don’t have celiac disease? Here’s some information to help you understand common questions about celiac disease.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an inherited auto-immune disease in which gluten, a protein found in many grains, causes damage to the small intestine. The disease can be serious, causing pain and making it difficult for people to get certain nutrients.

Celiac disease is very rare. Research indicates that the disease only occurs in people with a certain gene. One-third of the global population have the gene, but not everyone with the gene develops celiac disease. Less than one percent of Americans have the disorder.

A family history of celiac disease increases your risk for developing the disorder. People with certain health conditions – such as Down syndrome or type 1 diabetes – are also at a higher risk for celiac disease.

The disease can result in malnutrition, decrease bone density – increasing the risk for osteoporosis – cause issues with the nervous system, and it may otherwise affect your joints and skin.

How is celiac disease different from a gluten intolerance or a wheat allergy?

Gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy may cause symptoms that resemble celiac disease, but they are both quite distinct.

A gluten sensitivity does not damage the small intestine like celiac disease or a wheat allergy can. Gluten sensitivities can cause digestive issues, however.

Both wheat allergy and celiac disease can evoke a response from your immune system; however, a wheat allergy doesn’t cause lasting damage to the small intestine.

How do you know if you have celiac disease?

You can’t self-diagnose disorders, disease, allergies, or intolerances. A doctor must diagnose celiac disease. It’s sometimes difficult to diagnose because the systems of celiac disease often resemble other GI issues.

Doctors can determine if you have celiac disease through a blood test. If the blood test suggests you have the disorder, a biopsy can confirm the results.

Is gluten bad for you if you do not have celiac disease?

A gluten-free diet is the most effective way of managing celiac disease. A number of people have recently started eliminating gluten from their diets without being diagnosed with the disease, however. There’s controversy as to whether cutting out gluten is good for people without celiac disease.

There are some conditions other than celiac disease that may call for a gluten-free diet. However, there’s little research to confirm health benefits of a gluten-free diet if you do not have a medical condition.

One of the issues with a gluten-free diet is that eliminating foods containing gluten can make it difficult to get nutrients that your body needs to function and stay healthy.

Talk to your doctor before making drastic changes to your diet. If your doctor thinks you may have celiac disease, a wheat allergy, or gluten sensitivity, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist. MANA gastroenterologists are some of the best in Northwest Arkansas. Schedule your appointment today!