Day 5 Celiac Awareness Month: What is Celiac disease

Day 5 of Celiac Awareness Month.

I arrived at Antwerp, Belgium two days ago and I’m feeling a little better now. I haven’t managed to eat a lot till now but I’ll make up for it next coming days!!

Being sick didn’t stop me from enjoying this weather outside in our garden, breathing in  the cold, fresh air while looking at the beautiful flowers. It’s something you learn to appreciate even more when you live in a city like Mumbai. I’ll be visiting the city center of Antwerp tomorrow with my sister where the both of us love walking through the streets of our pretty city.  It’s like everywhere you go you’ll find a nice place to sit down and enjoy some food or drinks. Shopping is definitely on the list too! We are also planning to go for a concert of the “orchestre du champs elysee”. How I love being here!

Now a little about Celiac Disease. What is it and how can you find out if you have it?

Celiac Disease is an auto-immune disease where the body attacks the small intestine whenever you eat gluten. Gluten is a type of protein that you find in wheat, rye and barley. The attacks damages the villi, which are small finger-like projections of tissue that lines the small intestine which increases the surface area of the intestine. This promotes nutrient absorption. When people suffering from Celiac disease keep eating gluten, the inflammation blunts the villi which makes that you don’t absorb well the nutrients.
Celiac disease is hereditary and there is a 10 percent chance that you can get Celiac disease when one of your parents have it.

celiac-disease

There are multiple factors that are known to develop Celiac disease. You need to eat gluten before the immune reaction happens. You need to carry at least one or two genes associated with Celiac disease before it occurs (having these doesn’t mean you will get Celiac disease as you need more factors). You need an environmental trigger like illness, pregnancy, severe emotional stress, antibiotic use, gastrointestinal infections etc.

Now what are the signs and symptoms?

There are more than 200 symptoms associated with Celiac disease but here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Anemia, resulting from iron deficiency
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Gas and bloating
  • Weight loss
  • Damage to dental enamel
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Joint pain
  • Acid reflux and heartburn
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • Nervous system injury, including numbness and tingling in the feet and hands, possible problems with balance, and cognitive impairment

I got a great picture which contains all the symptoms per category:

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If not treated while having Celiac disease:

  • Malnutrition
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Early onset osteoporosis (loss of bone density) or osteomalacia (softening of bone)
  • Infertility and miscarriage
  • Cancer
  • Neurological problems

If you think that you might have Celiac disease, it’s best to go to your doctor immediately. They will do a few blood tests and afterwards an endoscopy when it comes back positive. It’s important that you are on a gluten diet before and while the tests are going on, definitely don’t go glutenfree until the tests come back. During the endoscopy they’ll check your small intestine and take a small tissue sample to analyze for damage to the villi. But you’ll have to eat gluten for a few weeks before you can do all these tests. If it comes back negative but you actually feel really bad every time you eat gluten, then you might have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitivity is when you can’t tolerate gluten and experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease but don’t have the same antibodies and intestinal damage like in celiac disease.

The only remedy for Celiac disease is a strict lifelong glutenfree diet. You will feel better within a few days/weeks as the inflammation gets less. But the healing and regrowth of the villi takes months/years . It’s very important that you don’t get any gluten in your system as it will damage the villi immediately, even if you don’t get any symptoms like abdominal pain and diarrhea. So definitely check out every product that you eat, that comes in your mouth or on your lips like lipstick, toothpaste, medicines, modified food starch/preservatives/food stabilizers etc.

Having Celiac disease doesn’t mean the end of the world, definitely not in these times. There are so many Facebook groups and other social media places where you get a lot of support. Where you can ask something and where everyone is there for you to help you out. Or where you can find a lot of inspiration when you don’t know anymore what to cook. And there are so many products all around us to make sure that we don’t feel hungry ever again. I wouldn’t say that I love being on a glutenfree diet again but I don’t feel lonely and frustrated either like how I felt 20 years back. Let’s make the best out of it and can’t wait to meet more people like me in Mumbai or anywhere else in the world 🙂

With love,

Erika

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