What is celiac disease?
What does gluten do to people who have celiac disease?
What are the symptoms of celiac disease?
How did I get celiac disease?
How can I be sure I have celiac disease?
Celiac disease sounds really serious. How can I control it?
What resources are there for people with celiac disease?
Can I be sensitive to gluten without having celiac disease?
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Celiac disease is a disorder that causes problems in your small intestine when you eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is poison to people who have celiac disease.
Organs of digestive tract
In people who have celiac disease, gluten causes the immune system to attack the small intestine. This damages the small intestine and keeps your small intestine from taking in nutrients from the foods you eat. When this happens, your body doesn’t get the vitamins, calcium, protein, carbohydrates, fats and other important nutrients it needs. Your body can't work well without these nutrients.
Celiac disease can cause a wide range of symptoms, symptoms that change, or sometimes no symptoms at all. Symptoms of celiac disease may include:
Doctors and researchers don’t know exactly what causes celiac disease. Celiac disease is more common in people who:
If you have celiac disease, you probably won’t know it right away. You may have this disease for a while without getting sick. Then something like severe stress, physical injury, infection, childbirth, or surgery can trigger, or "turn on," your celiac disease.
Blood tests can help your doctor diagnose this disease. If you think you have celiac disease, talk to your doctor. Don’t stop eating gluten before you have a blood test. If you stop eating gluten before your blood test, it can mess up your results.
If your blood test indicates that you might have celiac disease, an intestinal biopsy (taking a small piece of tissue from your small intestine using a thin tube) or the diagnosis of dermatitis herpetiformis (a particular type of skin rash) will confirm that you have celiac disease.
Celiac disease is serious. Fortunately you can control celiac disease by following a gluten-free diet, meaning you don’t eat any gluten for the rest of your life. By following the right diet, you can reverse the damage caused by celiac disease and you'll feel better. But if you "cheat" on your diet, the damage will come back, even if you don't feel sick right away.
People who follow a gluten-free diet avoid all foods that contain wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and triticale products, including many breads, pastas, cereals and processed foods. Rice, corn, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, and millet do not contain gluten. Some people choose to avoid oats because some oat products can be contaminated with wheat gluten. Gluten also is sometimes used in medicines, so be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking a new medicine.
Learning to be gluten-free may be difficult at first. It will take time for you and your family to learn how to avoid gluten. You’ll have to learn to read ingredient labels and identify the foods that contain gluten. You’ll have to be careful when you buy foods at the grocery store, or when you eat out. You’ll probably have to learn some new cooking recipes. For help, contact one a celiac support group. These groups are excellent sources of information and advice. They’ll help you find gluten-free foods and good recipes, and can give you tips on successfully living with celiac disease.
Many books and websites provide information, tips, and recipes for gluten-free living.
Your local celiac disease support group is a good source of information and support as you transition to gluten-free living.
You may also find it helpful to meet with a registered dietician. A dietician can help you learn what foods to avoid, how to read food labels, and how to make healthy substitutions for the foods you can no longer eat. Ask your doctor for help finding a certified registered dietician in your area.
Yes, you can have gluten sensitivity without the immune system attack on the small intestine that gluten causes in celiac disease. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity are generally milder than those seen in celiac disease, but improve on a gluten-free or gluten-restricted diet. Talk to your family doctor to see if your symptoms could be due to gluten sensitivity.