Gluten is a protein that is found in a variety of foods including bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and other foods containing wheat, barley or rye. Oats may also contain gluten. Celiac disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten. When someone with celiac disease eats foods containing gluten, an immune reaction occurs in the small intestine, resulting in damage to the surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients from food. Chronic malabsorption from the intestine can lead to vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain, nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment. People with this condition may then develop other diseases. This is especially serious in children, who need proper nutrition to develop and grow. Also known as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue and gluten-sensitive enteropathy, celiac disease occurs in people who have a susceptibility to gluten intolerance. No treatment can eliminate celiac disease. However, you can effectively manage the disease through changing your diet.
Causes of Gluten-restricted Diet
The intestine is lined with tiny projections, called villi. It forms a surface that resembles the deep pile of a plush carpet on a microscopic scale, The villi increase the surface area of the intestine and work to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food you eat. Celiac disease leads to damage of the villi. The inner surface of the small intestine becomes smooth and your body is unable to digest and absorb nutrients necessary for health and growth. Instead, nutrients such as fat, protein, vitamins and minerals are eliminated with your stool. The exact cause of celiac disease remains unknown. . If someone in your immediate family has it, chances are 10 percent to 20 percent that you may have it too. Although it can occur at any age, symptoms don't appear until gluten is introduced into the diet. In addition, it has been observed that the disease may emerge following some form of trauma: an infection, a physical injury, pregnancy, severe stress or surgery.
Signs and Symptoms of Gluten-restricted Diet
Unfortunately, there are usually not specific symptoms or physical signs associated with celiac disease. In general, people with this disorder may complain of intermittent diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating, or they may have no gastrointestinal symptoms at all. The symptoms of celiac disease can also mimic those of other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastric ulcers, Crohn's disease, parasite infections, anemia, skin disorders or a nervous condition. Malabsorption may produce other symptoms. These may include irritability or depression, stomach upset, joint pain, muscle cramps, skin rash, mouth sores, dental and bone disorders, and tingling in the legs and feet. Other signs of malabsorption that may result from celiac disease include weight loss and diarrhea. Abdominal pain, gas and bloating may occur. Foul smelling stools develop. Children may experience stunted growth. A skin disease, Dermatitis herpetiformis, may occur. It is an itchy, blistering skin disease that also stems from gluten intolerance. The rash usually occurs on the elbows, knees and buttocks. Dermatitis herpetiformis can cause significant intestinal damage identical to that of celiac disease. However, it may not produce noticeable digestive symptoms. Like celiac disease, Dermatitis herpetiformis is also treated with a gluten-free diet, in addition to medication to control the rash.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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