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5 Questions about Celiac Disease Answered

Publish Date April 27, 2023 5 Minute Read
Author Shelly Beck, RDN, LD

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes damage to the small intestine as a result of eating gluten, a protein found in some grains. It affects roughly 80 million people worldwide. The good news is, we’re learning more and more about celiac disease every day, and there are healthcare professionals ready to help. Let’s take a look at some of the more common questions asked about this disease.

How is celiac disease diagnosed?

Celiac disease is typically diagnosed with a blood test. The test will look at how the body is reacting to gluten, so it’s important to continue consuming gluten as usual before the test in order to get the most accurate results.

Celiac disease is hereditary; if someone in your family has this condition, it’s not uncommon for other family members to have it as well. If you know someone in your family who’s been diagnosed, you should get tested – especially if you’re experiencing symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

There are over 200 different celiac disease symptoms, including:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Steatorrhea (Fatty Stool)
  • GI Issues
  • Anxiety
  • Brain Fog
  • Constipation
  • Dental Issues
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Tingling/Numbness
  • Skin Rash (Herpetiformis)

Sometimes people feel no symptoms or minor symptoms, such as a mild headache, while others have intense symptoms, such as constant bloating and terrible migraines. With the range and number of symptoms, it can be confusing to know if you could have celiac disease or not. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about getting diagnosed if you have any concerns.

What happens if celiac disease goes undiagnosed and/or untreated?

The small intestine is where we absorb most nutrients. Therefore, if celiac disease is undiagnosed and untreated, intestinal damage can cause nutrient deficiencies, which can lead to iron deficiency anemia, malnutrition, lactose intolerance and osteoporosis. It can also lead to the development of other health conditions, such as Type 1 Diabetes, heart disease, Multiple Sclerosis and infertility.

How should celiac disease be treated?

As mentioned above, the small intestine damage that happens with celiac disease is triggered by consuming gluten. Therefore, the treatment is to avoid gluten all together.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Here are some common gluten-containing products:

  • Wheat: bread, pasta, cereal, baked goods, farro, spelt
  • Barley: beer, malt, soup
  • Rye: rye bread, rye whiskey, rye beer
  • Triticale is a less common hybrid of wheat and rye and can be found in granola, pasta and bread.
  • Oats are naturally gluten-free, but they’re often grown near wheat, barley and rye, which means there’s a risk of cross contact. Be sure to choose oats that are labeled gluten-free. There’s also a protein in oats called avenin, which may cause a reaction in people with celiac disease.

Avoiding gluten-containing products doesn’t mean you have to follow a bland diet! There are plenty of gluten-free foods and products to incorporate into a nutritious diet. Check out this article to read more about gluten-free eating.

Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivity and Wheat Allergy: What’s the difference?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the small intestine is damaged as a result of consuming gluten.

A gluten sensitivity is an adverse reaction due to eating gluten that’s less severe and doesn’t result in damage of the small intestine.

A wheat allergy results in the body’s immune system having an adverse reaction to the protein found in wheat. Someone who’s allergic to wheat may be able to consume gluten products that are free from wheat, unless they have another allergy to barley or rye.

If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease and need assistance with your gluten-free diet, schedule a Telenutrition appointment to talk to one of our registered dietitians.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.