For the past few years, we have been hearing a lot about gluten and gluten-free diets in the media. Gluten is a protein that is found in rye, wheat and barley. Most peoples’ bodies can digest gluten with no problems. However, for some people, gluten can cause severe symptoms.
Celiac disease is an immune condition or sensitivity to gluten.
For people with celiac disease, eating gluten causes an immune response in the small intestine. This response eventually leads to inflammation in the lining of the intestines.
Prolonged inflammation results in damage to the walls of the intestine.
This damage causes the body to be unable to absorb nutrients that are required for good health and growth.
The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown, however, there does seem to be a genetic component as it tends to run in families.
The signs and symptoms of celiac disease can vary significantly from person to person. However, diarrhea, weight loss, constipation and stomach pain are commonly experienced.
If your doctor suspects that you may have celiac disease, they will order blood tests to look for specific antibodies in the blood, which indicate an immune reaction to gluten. Your doctor may also recommend and endoscopy to better visualize the small intestines and to take a tissue sample.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for celiac disease. The goal of treatment is to manage the symptoms by eating a gluten-free diet. Due to the fact that gluten is present in many foods, your doctor may refer you to a dietitian.
Foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products generally do not contain any gluten.
It is important to carefully read food labels as gluten is contained in many processed foods.
The good news is that once gluten is removed from your diet, the inflammation in the small intestine will decrease. In addition to a gluten-free diet, your doctor may prescribe steroids to help reduce the inflation in the small intestines. Vitamin and mineral supplementation is often recommended to help decrease nutritional deficiencies.
Most people start to feel better within a few weeks. However, it may take several years for all symptoms to fully resolve.
Until next month, drive safely.
Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.