Also known as celiac disease, this condition is caused by the abnormal reaction of the immune system to gluten – a protein found in some cereals. The reaction occurs at the place of absorption of digested food and leads to inflammation and damaging of intestinal tissue.
Millions of patients across the world
Millions are affected by celiac disease worldwide. It usually causes weight loss, anemia, bloating and diarrhea, though it may also present with constipation and obesity or even with no digestive symptoms at all. Signs can vary and imitate many other conditions.
Many patients report headaches and fatigue, bones and joints problems, acid reflux or skin rash, known as dermatitis herpetiformis. If deprived of necessary nourishment, due to severe malabsorption, nervous system, brain, liver and another organ can be affected as well. Atypical presentation of the disease can be seen in children. As with most other autoimmune diseases, the cause is unknown, and the therapy is narrowed down to suppressing the symptoms.
What therapy options do we have?
There is no a definite cure, but celiac disease is controlled quite well by the treatment we use today. The basis of treatment is certainly elimination of gluten from patient’s diet. Following gluten – free diet suppresses inflammations, enables intestinal mucosa to heal and helps patients to feel better within few weeks. Symptoms tend to weaken soon after elimination of gluten, but sometimes it takes months or years for tissue to regenerate.
The more intestinal lining is damaged, the more its function of absorption is compromised. This causes a deficiency of many nutritional elements. Thus, supplementation is needed. The other phase of therapy recommends taking vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, folate and vitamins B, D and K in the form of pill or injection. The third aspect of therapy consists of medications given to suppress inflammation.
Gluten – free diet is crucial to those suffering GE
Elimination of gluten has to be strict because even accidental eating of extremely small amount of gluten can trigger symptoms again or damage mucosa without symptoms. Except avoiding wheat, rye, durum, barley, semolina, triticale, Farina and some other foods, patients should read labels carefully.
Why healthy people eliminate gluten from their plates?
Gluten – free diet is essential to healing people suffering from celiac disease, but some modern trend show increased the number of people using this diet with no illness or particular medical reason.
This intrigued scientists from Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to conduct a large study among children. The study was presented at Digestive Disease Week 2016 showing interesting results.
The study analyzed eating habits of children in 19 schools involving 15 800 kids. 78 kids were on gluten – free diet but only 60 percent had celiac disease. Other 40 percent either had some other medical condition, such as autism, epilepsy, infections, and their elimination of gluten was not medically justified.
Many kids were on gluten – free diet because parents wrongly believe this diet to be healthier.
The truth is that gluten – free diet is richer in calories, but may lack many vitamins, minerals or have higher levels of heavy metals, such as mercury or arsenic. Plus, this diet is always more expensive than the average food.
Since gluten – free diet is obviously not necessarily healthier and it can potentially deprive children of some nutritional components important for their normal growth, Mayo Clinic study alarms public health officers to work on education and informing nation and prevent this wrong trend.