Celiac disease, also known as “celiac sprue”, is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the small intestine. The condition occurs due to the consumption of dietary gluten products in susceptible people. There are many factors that can be involved in this condition including genetic and environmental factors. The environmental trigger is gluten, while the genetic predisposition has been identified in the central histocompatibility complex region. It is not a rare disorder as many people believe because data suggests that about 1% of people worldwide suffer from the condition.
Celiac disease can result in many nutritional deficiencies and other disorders, including anaemia, joint pain, ulceration, diarrhoea etc.
Gluten is present in many common food products which we usually consume. For example, you can find gluten in foods that contain wheat, barley, oats etc. These foods can include bread, cakes, sauces, pasta, thickening agents, biscuits, etc.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that affects your small intestine. It is an immune response to gluten and occurs when you are sensitive to gluten. Gluten is a collective term for a series of proteins in cereals such as wheat, barley, and likewise. Celiac disease inhibits your body from absorbing nutrients from food. When you have celiac disease, gluten injures or destroys the intestinal villi. Villi are fingerlike structures lining your small intestine. They help to absorb the nutrients from food into the blood. The absence of villi or injured villi interrupts nutrient absorption. Thus, making you malnourished despite healthy eating.
Exposure to gluten leads to inflammation and injury in the intestine. As a result, the intestinal lining is affected. It hampers the absorption of minerals and nutrients from the food. Thus, resulting in indigestion and other disorders. The symptoms include diarrhoea, fatigue, disoriented speech, skin rashes etc.
Symptoms of celiac disease may differ from person to person, and an individual may have multiple symptoms that come and go. Also, as per studies, these digestive symptoms are more common in children than in adults. Digestive symptoms of celiac disease may include:
- Chronic Diarrhoea
- Lactose Intolerance due to small intestinal damage
- Bad stools
- Abdominal Pain
Some other symptoms include tiredness, unhealthy weight loss, skin rashes etc. In some cases, celiac disease may also cause nerve damage, disoriented speech, infertility issues, etc. It may also cause delayed puberty in children. In addition, weight gain may occur in celiac disease when associated with specific disorders like thyroid.
Causes of Celiac Disease
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition. The exact reason for such an immune response is not apparent. However, a combination of various factors may trigger the disorder. It includes genetics, environmental factors, stress, prevailing medical conditions, etcetera. Pregnancy, childbirth, and hormonal imbalance may also be the reasons. However, the most common factors that cause celiac disease are environmental factors.
As per research, feeding patterns in the first year of life and potential viral infections (i.e., rotavirus) can lead to the development of celiac disease. A prospective study demonstrates the role of a specific infectious agent in celiac disease. The authors found that an increased frequency of rotavirus infection increases the risk of celiac disease in children. Gluten, one of the most common ingredients in human nutrition, is the most significant cause of celiac disease.
Research also suggests that other pivotal environmental factors, such as the duration of breastfeeding and introduction to weaning, can also play a role in influencing the intestinal microenvironment.
Health Conditions Associated with Celiac Disease
Patients affected with celiac disease more frequently suffer from specific health conditions. These conditions include “genetic disorders” such as Down syndrome, Turner syndrome and Williams syndrome, and “autoimmune” or “neurological” disorders. Some of the common health issues that can result from celiac disease are:
- Type-1 Diabetes
- Autoimmune Thyroid Disorders
- Autoimmune Hepatitis and Other forms of Liver Involvement
- Neurological Disorders
Complications of Untreated Celiac Disease
Celiac disease in adults, especially if diagnosed late, can lead to further complications. These conditions are:
- Enteropathy-associated Intestinal T cells Lymphoma
- Collagenous Sprue
- Refractory Sprue
- Ulcerative Jejunoileitis
- Reproductive Disorders
Best Ways to Treat Celiac Disease
As per current research and studies, the common ways to treat celiac disease are:
- Life-Long Gluten-Free Diet
- Gluten Degrading Enzymes
- Modified Grains
- Blocking gluten entry across the intestinal epithelium
However, the most effective treatment for celiac disease includes a gluten-free diet. Eliminating gluten may be effective as it helps reduce the symptoms. It also prevents further damage to the intestine. However, refraining from a gluten-free diet is challenging. Most food products contain gluten. For example, loaves of bread, condiments, dressings, sauces etc., contain gluten.
You may combat the symptoms of celiac disease with a healthy and well-balanced nutritious gluten-free diet. Doing so will make you notice the changes in a few weeks. However, it may take even a year or two for the intestine to recover completely. Nonetheless, the pace of recovery depends on a few factors, like the severity of celiac disease. Additionally, your age, medical history and any underlying conditions also matter.
Therefore, it is best to consult a health care provider or an expert dietician. They will help design a customised food plan for you as per your symptoms, medical history and overall health. In addition, you should entirely refrain from gluten food. Otherwise, the symptoms may relapse or recur.
Gluten is not an essential compound in your food as it does not cause any significant benefits to your health. So, you can easily eradicate it from your diet. Instead, you can choose from various healthy gluten-free foods like fruits and vegetables, meat, seafood, dairy products, etc. These foods are essential parts of a balanced and healthy diet as they offer all the vital nutrients. Moreover, they help to maintain overall health. Read through to find the benefits of these foods on celiac disease.
Fruits and Vegetables
A study states that a gluten-free diet with essential nutrients helps combat celiac disease. Fruits and vegetables are gluten-free. Moreover, they are rich in essential nutrients and antioxidants. Antioxidants help neutralise the radical cell injury, which triggers various diseases.
Nutritional deficiency is a concern in celiac disease. Fruits and vegetables have excellent nutrient value as they contain vitamins like vitamin B complex and minerals like, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc etc. The vitamins and minerals help to revive the nutritional deficiency. In addition, the dense dietary fibres in fruits and vegetables regulate your bowel movements. Fibre absorbs the water to bulk up your stool. As a result, it prevents diarrhoea, a significant symptom of celiac disease. Furthermore, the dietary fibres make you satiated for a longer duration. It controls your hunger pangs, preventing you from frequent eating.
Citrus fruits, banana apples, berries, carrots, and leafy greens are some common and easily accessible gluten-free foods that are healthy.
Seafood is gluten-free. Moreover, fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. A study finds that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. As said, celiac disease may cause inflammation in the intestine. Therefore, seafood is excellent and safe for people with celiac disease. Additionally, the fatty acids help regulate cholesterol levels, which may prevent the risk of heart diseases.
Poultry and Meat
Chicken, eggs, turkey and other meat products are gluten-free foods. That is because they are a rich source of essential minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. In addition, they help maintain the fluid balance in your body. Fluid and electrolyte imbalance is a common sign of celiac disease, which causes fatigue. Moreover, poultry and meat are good sources of protein that help maintain your body weight. However, ensure they are fresh cuts and not floured or battered. Otherwise, it may contain gluten content.
Dairy and Milk Products
A study finds dairy products are safe for celiac patients. So milk, butter, cheese, curd, and other dairy products are gluten-free. In addition, they do not increase the risk of symptoms. Moreover, they are an excellent source of vitamin D and phosphorus that helps in bone growth, balance electrolytes with potassium, magnesium, iodine, etc..
Foods to Avoid for Celiac Disease
Many foods, especially processed and canned foods, have additives with gluten. For example, cereals like barley, wheat, oats, and rye contain gluten. In addition, you should avoid graham flour, semolina, and self-rising flour. If one wants to avoid gluten from packaged food, it is of utmost importance to check the label for the ingredients before making a purchase. Moreover, gluten can be present in non-food products. For example, a few products like lipsticks, medicines etc., contain gluten.
Here are a few tips to avoid gluten.
- Avoid all products of cereals not mentioned gluten-free.
- Carefully select corn and rice products. It is gluten-free. However, it may get contaminated with other cereals containing gluten if processed in the same place. Therefore, rule out such instances.
- Avoid all wheat products like wheat starch, bran, wheat germ, etc.
- Refrain from gluten containing emulsifiers, seasonings, sauces and caramel.
Here are some other food products that may contain gluten.
- Pastries and Cold Cuts
- Hot Dogs
- Soya Sauce
Therefore, you need to be alert in checking the ingredients for gluten.
Adopting a Gluten-Free Diet: Easy Tips
A gluten-free diet is similar to any other meal. However, you need to ensure there is no wheat, oats, barley, rye and similar cereals. You also need to avoid refined flours. Therefore, it is better to maintain a list of gluten-free products. Here are a few easy, simple and nutritious gluten-free recipes.
If you use wheat flour, replace it with brown rice or millets. They are easily available. Since bread is a standard part of Indian meals, here is a gluten-free replacement for wheat roti/bread.
Ragi/Finger millet Roti or Flatbread
Ragi is a gluten-free millet rich in calcium, iron and other essential nutrients. Fill it up with vegetables to enhance the nutrient profile further.
Cooking time:15 minutes
Calories: 110 calories per serving
- Ragi Flour: 250 ml
- Boiling water: 250 ml
- Salt:1 pinch
- Boil water with salt in a pan
- Add the flour when the water boils
- Turn off the flame
- Mix well and leave the dough for 5 minutes
- Knead the dough until soft
- Scoop 2 tablespoons of dough
- Heat it on a grill on low flame
- Cook both the sides
- Serve with fresh vegetable salad and curd.
Mushroom Brown Rice
Brown rice is a healthier version of other variants of rice. The dish is an excellent source of essential nutrients clubbed with the goodness of mushrooms.
- Cooked Brown Rice: 250 ml
- Sliced Mushrooms: 250 ml
- Chopped Onion: 125 ml
- Chopped Capsicum: 62 gm
- Grated Garlic: 1 tbsp
- Crushed Black Pepper: ½ tsp
- Chopped Green Chillies: 1 tsp
- Salt: 1 tsp
- Olive oil: 2 tsp
- Add olive oil to a heated pan
- Add grated garlic and onion
- Sauté for a minute
- Add mushroom and capsicum
- Add salt and crushed pepper
- Sauté for another two minutes
- Cover and cook until cooked
- Add the cooked brown rice
- Mix well and cook for another minute
Chicken quinoa is a healthy combination for a gluten-free diet. It is a protein-rich meal with high fibres and low calories.
Calories: 256 calories
Cooking time: 15 minutes
- Cooked Quinoa: 2 cups
- Cooked and Shredded Chicken: 1 cup
- Finely Chopped Carrot: ½ cup
- Grated Ginger: 1 tsp
- Grated Garlic: 1 tsp
- Chopped Onion: 64 g
- Chicken Broth: 177 ml
- Crushed Pepper: 1 tsp
- Olive Oil: 2 tsp
- Add oil to a heated large skillet
- Add grated ginger, garlic and onion
- Sauté for a minute
- Add chopped and for a minute
- Add the shredded chicken
- Mix well and cook covered for a minute
- Add the cooked quinoa and chicken broth
- Mix well and cook for another 5 minutes
The Bottom Line
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder affecting people who are sensitive to gluten. It is no more a rare disorder as more than 1% of people worldwide have celiac disease. However, combatting the symptoms of celiac disease is not very challenging. You need to ensure that you eat the right gluten-free and healthy foods. It becomes more critical since most cereals like wheat, barley, and oats have gluten.
The exact reason for a person’s celiac condition can be challenging to diagnose. However, family history or genetic factors, and hormonal imbalances may contribute to the cause of celiac diseases. As you stop gluten content, the symptoms may regress. Therefore, you need to be cautious with your diet. A dietician or doctor prescribes a gluten-free diet chart based on your symptoms and intensity. Moreover, since ignoring celiac disease symptoms can cause severe health issues, it is best to attend to the signs and make necessary dietary modifications to lead a healthy life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. How can you tell if you have celiac disease?
A. Celiac diseases show symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bloating and constipation. Flatulence, indigestion, and vomiting are other symptoms. It also causes general symptoms like tiredness, weight loss, skin rashes etc.
Q. What foods trigger celiac disease?
A. The most significant trigger for celiac disease is the gluten content in gluten-susceptible people. It is present in cereal grains like wheat, barley, oats etc. Hence, it is best to ignore bread, cakes, sauces, pasta, thickening agents and biscuits that contain gluten.
Q. What celiac disease feels like?
A. The disease does not have a specific symptom like chronic pain that you can feel. However, if you eat foods with gluten, you may feel abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bloating and constipation. Additionally, flatulence, indigestion, vomiting, and tiredness can be some of the symptoms.
Q. Can celiac disease go away?
A. The celiac disorder is an autoimmune disorder. The symptoms subside as you stop gluten. However, it may relapse with a gluten diet.
Q. What happens if celiac goes untreated?
A. If the celiac disease is ignored or left untreated, it results in the various vitamin and mineral deficiency, anaemia, depression, and ulceration of the intestine. It may also cause adenocarcinoma of the intestine, lymphoma etc.
Q. What foods should be avoided with celiac disease?
A. You should avoid any food that contains gluten. Some of the common foods that contain gluten are cereals like barley, wheat, oats, and rye. In addition, graham flour, semolina, and self-rising flour are also gluten-rich.
Q. Are bananas good for celiac disease?
A. Yes, Bananas are good for celiac disease. They do not contain gluten. Like any other fruits, bananas are safe and healthy for celiac disease.
Q. Can celiacs eat eggs?
A. Yes, celiacs can eat eggs. They do not contain gluten. The nutrients in eggs help to reduce celiac disease symptoms.
Q. Can celiac cause weight gain?
A. Yes, celiac disease may cause weight gain in some cases. However, mainly celiac diseases result in weight loss.
Q. What organs does the celiac disease affect?
A. The celiac disease mainly affects the small intestine. However, as the disease advances, it affects the nerves, bones, and skin as the disease advances. It affects various organs.