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Celiac Disease


Introduction

Celiac disease is a genetic disease which causes a hypersensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat (durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, and tritacale), rye, and barley. Celiac affects 1 out of every 133 people, yet 97% of people go undiagnosed. Celiac is classified as both a disease of malabsorption and as an autoimmune disorder. The body cannot absorb the nutrients it needs to function properly and the body is damaged by its own immune system. If gluten is consumed, IgA immune proteins are released, causing massive inflammation. This inflammation results in malabsorption and gastric pain.

Anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTG-IgA) is the most sensitive diagnostic test. It picks up antibodies against gluten in the blood. The anti-endomysial antibody (EMA-IgA) is another common test and is very specific to Celiac. A small bowel biopsy is usually conducted to look for damage and inflammation as well. Genetic testing is available and can help rule out Celiac but not diagnose it.

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Common Symptoms

Recurring bloating, gas or abdominal pain; chronic diarrhea or constipation or both; unexplained weight loss or weight gain; pale, foul-smelling stools; unexplained anemia; bone or joint pain; behavior changes, depression, irritability; vitamin K deficiencies; canker sores inside the mouth; missed menstrual periods; delayed growth or onset of period; tooth discoloration or loss of enamel; failure to thrive (in infants); fatigue, weakness, or lack of energy; infertility male and female.

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Natural Treatment

The natural approach to managing Celiac Disease involves dietary management and gastrointestinal support. Avoiding gluten in food and in hidden sources is imperative. Due to the rigidity of the diet, it is helpful to work with a nutritionist (online or in person) to develop a meal plan that is tailored to an individual's preferences and one that also provides creative alternatives to popular food favorites. Nutrient needs typically increase due to compromised gastrointestinal absorption. Therefore, it important to include a gut restorative plan to promote the proper breakdown and absorption of foods with digestive enzymes, probiotics and specific vitamins/minerals. Equally important are natural anti-inflammatories as well as mucosal membrane rebuilders to promote healing and immune system strength.

Other food allergies or sensitivities are common with Celiac Disease. Food allergy testing may help eliminate these culprits. If someone in your family has Celiac or another autoimmune disease, it is a good idea to get tested. If you lack the gene for Celiac or have a negative test result, yet still have symptoms, you may still be gluten sensitive and benefit from a gluten-free or wheat-free diet. (online or in person)

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References

Rister S. Healing Without Medication. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc; 2003: 159-161.

The face of Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease Foundation. 2009. Available at: http://www.celiac.org/downloads/Are-you-ONE-brochure-Oct09.pdf. Accessed on: October 27, 2009.

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