What is Celiac Disease, and How do I Know if I Have it?

Posted at 12:25 PM on May 4, 2023

What is Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is growing in awareness as more and more people are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon. This way of eating has gained popularity not only for those with celiac disease but also for those experiencing gluten sensitivity. While many of us can benefit from limiting gluten intake, the reality is that celiac disease is much more serious than simply wanting to limit carbs. And also, just a heads up, gluten-free doesn't mean carb-free. We will get more into that in a moment.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine. It is caused by an abnormal immune response to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. When someone with celiac disease eats foods containing gluten, it triggers an immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine, leading to malabsorption of nutrients and a range of symptoms.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue 
  • Anemia

Symptoms in children:

  • Growth problems
  • Delayed puberty
  • Dental enamel defects

Important note, some people with celiac disease may not experience any symptoms.

How do I Know if I have Celiac Disease?

If you suspect you may have celiac disease, the first step is to talk to your doctor. They can perform a blood test to check for the presence of certain antibodies that are associated with celiac disease. If the blood test is positive, your physician may recommend a biopsy of the small intestine to confirm the diagnosis.

It is important to note that celiac disease can sometimes be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can be similar to other digestive disorders. Additionally, some people with celiac disease may have negative blood test results but still have damage to the small intestine that can only be detected through a biopsy.

Treating Celiac Disease

If diagnosed with celiac disease, the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all foods that contain wheat, barley, and rye, as well as any foods that may have come into contact with gluten during processing. Working with a registered dietitian specializing in celiac disease is important to ensure that your diet is balanced and meets your nutritional needs.

Remember, gluten-free does not mean carbohydrate-free. With gaining popularity, many have begun avoiding gluten to lose weight and avoid carbohydrates. However, there are many foods with high amounts of carbohydrates that are gluten-free. So be sure always to watch your food labels.

In addition to changing your diet, your doctor may also recommend supplements to help address any nutritional deficiencies that may have developed due to celiac disease. In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help reduce inflammation in the small intestine.

Living With Celiac Disease

Living with celiac disease can be challenging, but with the right diagnosis, treatment, and support, managing the condition and leading a healthy, fulfilling life is possible. If you suspect you may have celiac disease, it is important to talk to your primary care physician as soon as possible to get the proper diagnosis and treatment.