Although not predominantly found in India, celiac disease is becoming more prevalent in North India, as it is the wheat belt of the nation, compared to South India. To put it in simple terms, celiac disease is a lifelong condition that affects the lining of the small intestine preventing it from absorbing the food particles that are important for health. This condition is due to the consumption of gluten, a protein commonly found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Villi, present in the lining of the intestine, helps to absorb nutrients and when gluten-rich foods pass through the intestine, the immune system creates substances that damage the villi. This is the reason for the body’s inability to absorb nutrients properly resulting in undernourishment.
Celiac disease can occur at any stage of life with more women being diagnosed with the condition compared to men. Almost 83 percent of those with celiac disease are not diagnosed properly as there are various symptoms that vary from person to person. Symptoms may include diarrhea or constipation or some individuals may not have any trouble with stools.
Celiac disease is common in families where any of the other family members are diagnosed with the disease. Individuals with celiac disease are prone to gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas or indigestion, constipation, appetite changes, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, lactose intolerance, abnormal stools and unexplained weight loss (even normal weight or overweight is possible).
Additional symptoms include frequent bruises, depression, anxiety, fatigue, hair loss, itchy skin, missed menstrual cycles, nosebleeds, mouth ulcers, cramps and joint pains, seizure, retarded heights and numbness in the hands or feet.
Symptoms in children include defects in tooth enamel, tooth color changes, delayed puberty, nausea or vomiting, irritable and fussy behavior, constipation, diarrhea, fatty or foul-smelling stools, poor weight gain and retarded growth for their age.
A physician is the right person to confirm celiac disease after checking the symptoms, medical history and performing an examination. Your physician will ask you to take blood tests and biopsy tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Certain other people are intolerant or sensitive to gluten, but not to the extent of developing celiac disease. Common symptoms in such people include joint pain, abdominal pain, reflux, bloating, diarrhea and fatigue. Here, the villi are not damaged as in celiac disease.
Treatment for celiac disease is only diet modification. Eating a gluten-free diet helps people with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Seeking the help of a registered dietitian nutritionist at www.firsteatright.com is the best way to ensure your dietary modifications to be successful.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.