What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a hereditary autoimmune disorder that can become apparent at any age. When an affected person eats food containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, the body’s immune response is wrongly triggered to target the small intestine. Over time, the resulting damage to the small intestine can prevent it from properly absorbing essential nutrients from food during the digestive process. As a result, the body does not get the vitamins, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and other important nutrients it needs to function well.
Some people are surprised to learn that celiac disease does not always manifest itself in the form of digestive problems, especially in adults. Instead, it can produce wide-ranging symptoms, as well as no symptoms at all. In addition to lactose intolerance and gastrointestinal distress, many affected individuals experience fatigue, joint pain, irritability, anxiety, and general malaise.
When symptoms like these occur, it’s important to consult with a physician. If celiac disease is undiagnosed or left untreated, it can lead to the development of serious and long-term health issues, such as:
- Other autoimmune disorders, including Type 1 diabetes
- Early-onset osteoporosis
- Pancreatic and gall bladder malfunction
- Neurological disorders
- Gastrointestinal cancers
While there is no cure for celiac disease, this serious condition can be controlled by adhering to a gluten-free diet. This means carefully reading labels and avoiding all foods that contain wheat, barley, or rye, which includes many breads, cereals, pastas, and processed foods. Despite these extensive restrictions, it is possible to follow a well-balanced diet that includes gluten-free alternatives, such as meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, brown rice, corn flour, quinoa, and soy. Many patients benefit from consulting with a registered dietitian who is experienced in working with patients who have celiac disease.
If you have questions about celiac disease or other health-related topics, please feel free to contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care. No appointments are ever necessary to see a doctor at our walk-in clinic.