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Coeliac Disease - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

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Nearly three out of four people with coeliac disease don't know they have this digestive disorder, and not following a gluten-free diet can seriously harm your health. 

People with this disease can't eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Their immune system damages their small intestine when they eat foods containing gluten. 

Several symptoms are associated with this disease, which can differ depending on the age you develop the condition. 

It's important to get a diagnosis to start following a gluten-free diet and reduce the risk of further damage to your intestine and other complications. This article covers the symptoms, causes, and treatment of coeliac disease.

What is a Coeliac Disease?

Coeliac disease is a chronic disease of the digestive system of immune origin, characterised by permanent intolerance to a protein called gluten, which is present in cereals (wheat, oats, barley, or rye). 

When the patient eats foods that contain gluten, the small intestine’s lining is damaged, reducing its ability to absorb nutrients. Without treatment, people affected by this disorder suffer from malnutrition and various associated diseases. However, not all people with this disease have symptoms; therefore, it can go unnoticed for a long time.

Any ingested food undergoes a digestion process that breaks down the food into smaller particles so that our body can absorb them. 

The absorption of these particles occurs in the small intestine, and, for this to happen, the existence of villi is necessary, which are like tiny roots lining the inside of the small intestine. 

The absorption process shortens when villus length is reduced, resulting in poor nutrition. In coeliac disease, too, a reduction in the size of the intestinal villi occurs due to gluten intolerance.

What Are the Symptoms of Coeliac Disease?

The symptoms of coeliac disease differ wildly. A person may experience multiple fluctuating symptoms. If you have coeliac disease, you may experience digestive issues and other symptoms. In adolescents, digestive problems are more prevalent than in adults. These are examples of coeliac disease digestive symptoms:

  • Bloating persistent diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Lactose intolerance caused by small intestine injury
  • Loose, viscous, voluminous, and bad-smelling stools
  • Vertigo or vomiting
  • Discomfort in the abdomen

For kids with coeliac disease, the inability to consume nutrients at a time crucial for normal development and growth can result in stunted growth and development.

  • Enamel erosion of permanent teeth
  • Delayed maturation
  • Failure to thrive occurs when a neonate or child weighs less or gains less weight
  • Changes in mood or feeling irritated or irritable
  • Sluggish development and diminutive stature
  • Weight reduction

Some individuals with coeliac disease exhibit signs that impact other organs. Among these symptoms may be

  • Dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Joint or bone discomfort
  • Symptoms of the nervous system, such as migraines, balance issues, convulsions, and peripheral neuropathy
  • Mouth-related symptoms include canker ulcers, a parched mouth, and a red, smooth, and shining tongue.

Most individuals with coeliac disease exhibit one or more signs before diagnosis and treatment. After a person starts a gluten-free diet, their symptoms usually improve and may even disappear. Signs may return if a minor quantity of gluten is consumed.

Depending on your age at the time of coeliac disease diagnosis, some symptoms, like short stature and dental defects, may not resolve. Individuals with coeliac disease with no signs may develop complications if they do not receive treatment.

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What Are the Causes of Coeliac Disease?

The exact cause why some people develop this disease is unknown. It is suggested that the fundamental cause of this disease is an immunological disorder occurring in the walls of the intestine. Gluten, a protein found in cereals, is the main trigger of this disease. The leading causes of this disease are:

  • Gluten: It is a protein found in cereals such as wheat, oats, barley, and rye. When people with this disease eat gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging the lining of the small intestine. This damage prevents the absorption of nutrients, leading to malnutrition and other health problems.    
  • Gene: There is a genetic predisposition to develop the disease. If you have a first-degree relative (parent, child, or sibling) with this disease, you have a greater chance of developing the disease.
  • Autoimmune disorders: These are conditions in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissues and organs. Hashimoto's thyroiditis, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of autoimmune disorders.
  • Other Factors: Researchers are investigating other elements that might stimulate a person's chance of getting coeliac disease. For example, it has been found that increased infections in early life and certain gastrointestinal tract illnesses may raise the risk. In addition, researchers believe that alterations in the microbiome, bacteria found in the stomach and intestines that aid digestion, might be associated with coeliac disease.

Diagnosis of Coeliac Disease

Most of the time, a doctor can figure out if someone has coeliac disease by looking at their medical history and the medical history of their family. They may also order genetic tests, blood tests, and biopsies.

Doctors check the blood for antibodies like antigliadin and endomysial antibodies, which are often found in people with coeliac disease.

If other tests show that someone has coeliac disease, a physician may use an endoscope to collect samples of the lining of the intestine. Most of the time, they do several to improve the accuracy of the results.

What is the Treatment for Coeliac Disease?

Test for Coeliac Disease can be performed with a simple blood test, which looks for antibodies produced by the immune system in response to gluten. The possible test and treatments for Coeliac Disease are:

Blood test: A blood test can look for antibodies produced in response to gluten. If the test is positive, the medical practitioner will perform a small intestine biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Biopsy: A small intestine biopsy is the only way to diagnose coeliac disease definitively. The biopsy will show damage to the lining of the small intestine caused by the immune reaction to gluten.

Diet: The only treatment for this disease is a strict gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all foods that contain wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Many gluten-free foods are available, and one may follow the diet without difficulty.

Support: Many organisations offer support and information for people with this type of disease. These organisations can provide valuable resources and help you meet other people with the same condition.

This disease is a serious, lifelong condition that can significantly impact your health. If you think you may have this disease, you must see your doctor for a diagnosis. Once diagnosed, you can start treatment and take the necessary steps to protect your health.

How Long will it Take for the Treatment to Work?

Most people find that their symptoms start to get better almost as soon as they start eating gluten-free. It might take a few weeks to get the nutrients you need and a few months for your gut to heal completely. It may take longer, depending on how bad the damage is and how long it has been going on. If you don't stick to a strict diet, you can also stop your body from getting better.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Consult your doctor if diarrhoea or digestive discomfort lasts longer than two weeks. Consult your child's physician if they are pallid, irritable, not growing, have a potbelly, or have foul-smelling, bulky faeces.

Consult your doctor before beginning a gluten-free diet. Before being examined for coeliac disease, you can alter the test results if you halt or even reduce your gluten consumption.

Coeliac disease is typically inherited. Ask your physician if you need to be examined if a family member has the condition. Consult your physician for diagnostics if you or a family member has type 1 diabetes or another possible risk for coeliac disease.

Conclusion

Coeliac disease is a condition that affects the digestive system and causes damage to the lining of the small intestine. Symptoms of this disease can vary from person to person and may include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea, constipation, fatigue, and weight loss. 

There is no cure for this disease, but the condition can be managed by following a strict gluten-free diet. You must see your doctor for a diagnosis if you think you may have coeliac disease.

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