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Celiac Disease: Patient Guide and Treatment Information
For people with celiac disease, going gluten-free is a medical necessity rather than a choice. Celiac disease is a serious digestive disorder that is triggered by the protein gluten. When people with celiac disease eat foods that have gluten, such as barley, rye and wheat, their immune system responds by damaging the intestine. Over time, this results in the body being unable to absorb nutrients. Celiac disease leads to a host of problems, including:
- Thyroid Disease
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Here are some of the symptoms of celiac disease. If you have these symptoms, check with your doctor for an official diagnosis. There are many other diseases that could be causing these symptoms, as well.
- Chronic diarrhea
- Swelling in the abdomen or feeling of fullness
- Foul-smelling, pale stools that float
- Stomach pain
How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
Celiac disease can be diagnosed by your physician. They will ask you for a complete family medical history. Then, you physician may order a physical exam and other tests, such as genetic tests, blood test or a biopsy.
Treatments for Celiac Disease
There is no cure for celiac disease. The only treatment is to remain on a gluten-free diet. Following a gluten-free diet will significantly reduce the symptoms of this disorder and may eventually end the symptoms altogether as the villi of your intestines are healed. Eating any gluten at all will restart the damage to your intestine. Therefore, you will have to remain on a gluten-free diet for the rest of your life.
In some cases, the damage to the intestines is so significant that eating a gluten free diet will not help. If this happens, the only way to get nutrients is intravenously.
Living with Celiac Disease
Living with celiac disease requires a big change in your diet. A true gluten-free diet will limit what you can eat. You cannot eat many of the staples, including:
- Ice cream
- Instant coffee
- Processed foods
Read food labels carefully before eating any food to be sure that it does not contain wheat or any other type of gluten. Some patients with celiac disease can eat oats and others cannot. So, if you have celiac disease, ask your doctor whether or not you should consume oats. Just be aware that packaged oats are sometimes contaminated with wheat.
It is also a good idea to pay close attention to over-the-counter capsules, vitamins and tablets as many of these contain wheat starch, which is used as a binding agent in capsules and tablets. Gluten is present in barley so avoid beer. Brandy, whiskey, wine and other alcohols are fine as they do not contain gluten.
It is always a good idea to work with a dietitian, who can provide you with more information about a gluten-free diet.
When eating in restaurants, you will have to ask what the ingredients are in each dish that you order. Eating just a small amount of gluten will cause some people with celiac disease to vomit or have severe diarrhea that lasts for hours.
Even though you have celiac disease, you can still enjoy a healthy diet. You can get pasta and bread that are made from other types of flour, such as rice flour. In addition, many food companies have significantly increased their gluten-free offerings over the last couple of years as gluten-free has become quite popular. In addition, you can enjoy fresh vegetables, fruits, fish and meats, as long as they have not been artificially processed.