National Digestive Disease Awareness Month – Celiac Disease 101

National Digestive Disease Awareness Month – Celiac Disease 101

May is National Digestive Disease Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about various digestive disorders that affect millions of people worldwide. One common digestive condition is Celiac Disease, a serious autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten. Keep reading as we discuss the basics of Celiac Disease to increase understanding and promote better management of this often misunderstood condition.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system reacts abnormally to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When individuals with Celiac Disease consume gluten, their immune system attacks the small intestine, leading to inflammation and damage to the intestinal lining. This damage impairs the absorption of nutrients, resulting in various gastrointestinal and systemic symptoms.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

The symptoms of Celiac Disease can vary widely and may include:

  • Digestive Issues: These issues can range from bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, to abdominal pain and cramping.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Due to malabsorption, individuals may experience deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, leading to fatigue, anemia, and other health issues.
  • Skin Problems: Some people with Celiac Disease may develop dermatitis Herpetiformis, a skin rash characterized by itchy, blistering lesions.
  • Bone and Joint Pain: Osteoporosis and joint pain can occur due to calcium and vitamin D deficiencies.
  • Neurological Symptoms: These can include headaches, peripheral neuropathy, and cognitive difficulties.
  • Miscarriages and Infertility: Untreated Celiac Disease can lead to complications during pregnancy, including miscarriages and infertility.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing Celiac Disease involves a combination of blood tests and a biopsy of the small intestine. It’s crucial for individuals suspected of having Celiac Disease to continue consuming gluten-containing foods before testing to ensure accurate results.

The primary treatment for Celiac Disease is a strict gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all sources of gluten, including wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives. With proper adherence to a gluten-free diet, the intestinal damage can heal and symptoms can improve significantly. In some cases, additional nutritional supplements may be recommended to address deficiencies.

Awareness and Support

Raising awareness about Celiac Disease is essential for several reasons:

  • Early Detection. Increased awareness can lead to early detection and diagnosis, allowing individuals to start treatment promptly and prevent long-term complications.
  • Improved Quality of Life. Proper management of Celiac Disease through a gluten-free diet can significantly improve the quality of life for affected individuals, reducing symptoms and enhancing overall health.
  • Support and Advocacy. Awareness initiatives can foster a supportive community for individuals with Celiac Disease, providing resources, education, and advocacy for their needs.

As we observe National Digestive Disease Awareness Month, it is important to spread awareness on Celiac Disease and its impact on individuals’ lives. By understanding the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options, we can work to help those with Celiac Disease lead healthier lives.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Celiac Disease, talk to your Primary Care Physician to discuss testing and next steps. If you are in need of a Primary Care Physician, Visit the Find A Physician section on our website.

author avatar
Michael Merdich