Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive system. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, the immune system reacts by damaging the small intestine. This can lead to nutrient malabsorption and a host of other problems.
Celiac disease is thought to affect about 1 percent of the population, although many people with the disease are undiagnosed. There is no cure for celiac disease, but following a gluten-free diet can help to control symptoms and allow the intestines to heal.
For people with celiac disease, even a small amount of gluten can trigger symptoms. These can include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, and weight loss. Some people with celiac disease also experience anemia, osteoporosis, anxiety, and depression.
Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms can vary from person to person. In some cases, there may be no obvious symptoms at all. A blood test can be used to look for antibodies that are associated with celiac disease. A biopsy of the small intestine may also be done to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for celiac disease involves following a strict gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all foods that contain wheat, rye, and barley. For some people, this may also mean avoiding foods that have come into contact with gluten, such as certain processed foods and those prepared in restaurants.
There are many gluten-free alternatives available now, so following a gluten-free diet is easier than ever before.