What is Celiac Disease?

September 13 is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day. Chances are, you’ve heard about celiac disease. Maybe you even have a friend or family member with celiac disease. But maybe you don’t know what it is or who it can affect. In an effort to increase awareness, we’re answering all of these questions today.

Who does it affect?

Anyone can be affected by celiac disease, regardless of sex or age. It is estimated 1 in every 133 Americans is living with Celiac disease. It tends to run in families, and so you are at a higher risk to inherit the condition if someone else in your family has been diagnosed.

When does it occur?

Celiac disease can develop at any age in a person’s life, even if they have tested negative before. Celiac disease can become present after significant changes to your health such as a serious surgery, pregnancy, viral infection, or even severe emotional stress.

What is it?

Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease where the small intestine is damaged each time gluten is digested. Gluten is a substance found in wheat, barley, and rye. Damage of the small intestine can lead to the inability to absorb nutrients from other foods which can lead to more health problems.

Why does it occur?

The exact cause of celiac disease isn’t known, but it can be caused partly as a result of your genes. It is also more common in people who are related to someone with celiac disease, Type 1 diabetes, down syndrome, autoimmune thyroid disease, or Addison’s disease.

How do you treat it?

Once diagnosed with celiac disease, patients will be put on a gluten-free diet. You should not stop eating gluten before being tested, as this can affect test results. Eliminating gluten can relieve or stop symptoms, heal existing intestinal damage, and prevent more damage. There are currently many studies and other treatments being developed right now. In the future, there may be more treatment options for those with celiac disease.

What are common symptoms?

Celiac disease, especially if left untreated, can lead to further health complications. Those with celiac may suffer from abdominal pain, depression, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, bloating, and more. Children are even more likely to have digestive problems.

The Centers for Gastroenterology have been helping patients with celiac disease for many years. If you or someone you know is living with this disease, know that you are not alone. There are many resources and people available to support you. At the Centers for Gastroenterology, we are able to test for celiac disease and perform follow-up bloodwork after diagnosis to be sure the patient is adjusting properly. Learn more about the disease, your treatment options, or schedule an appointment by calling us at either our Fort Collins, Greeley, or Loveland location. If you think you may be suffering from symptoms of celiac disease, consult your doctor.