Celiac disease is a physical condition triggered by an autoimmune disorder within the small intestine. The disease is commonly diagnosed amongst genetically predisposed children. The symptoms manifest in the form of chronic diarrhea, weakness, and failure to thrive.
Children are most vulnerable to autoimmune disorders sparked by a genetic trigger. Celiac disease is one such physical condition that takes a toll on the otherwise vivacious nature of children. This disease is an autoimmune abnormality that affects the small intestine. The resultant fatigue and deterioration of allied organ systems are primary reactions to gliadin. This gluten protein is commonly found in wheat and allied cultivars such as rye and barley. Genetically predisposed children display a natural intolerance to gliadin. Upon exposure to the protein, there is a cross reaction triggered within the small bowel during the modification of the protein by transglutaminase. This adverse reaction results in an inflammation that causes truncating of the villi, within the small intestine. The main function of the villous atrophy is to ensure absolute absorption of nutrients from ingested food, and the gliadin intolerance interferes with this vital process.
The condition has no absolute cure, but is ably contained by adopting a gluten-free diet, lifelong. The disease is not the same as wheat allergy. This condition is also medically referred to as celiac sprue and gluten enteropathy. The classic symptoms include:
- Distention of the abdominal cavity.
- Vomiting, often accompanied by diarrhea.
- Sudden, unexplainable weight loss.
- Stunted growth.
- Malfunctioning bowel routine.
- Psychosocial problems.
- Mouth ulcers.
- Osteopenia or decreased mineral bone content.
- Osteoporosis or weakened bones.
- Increased risk of contracting autoimmune diseases.
- Dermatitis herpetiformis.
- Neurological issues like epilepsy and schizophrenia.
- Juvenile diabetes.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Children suffering from this condition display intolerance to wheat varieties and oats. Diagnosis of the health problem is conducted and established via repeated investigations, endoscopy, and routine blood and stool tests. Serological blood tests help define the presence of anti-tTG antibodies. Serology tests conducted are based on gliadin or tissue transglutaminase, tTG or indirect immunofluorescence. Upper jejunal pathology, upper endoscopy, and duodenum biopsy are also performed to obtain tissue samples, and determine the extent of healthy bowel tissue in comparison to the damaged portion.
The most effective treatment option to address celiac disease in children is early adoption of a gluten-free diet. It is important to monitor and ensure a strict adherence to the diet for the intestines to heal well and trigger symptom resolution as soon as possible. This not only eliminates the risk of the child developing osteoporosis, but also keeps the onslaught of intestinal cancer at bay. The child’s age, exposure to gluten-containing foods during infancy, and degree of small-intestinal damage are all necessary factors to consider during treatment. Early screening and internal biopsy helps keep the condition in check.
The gluten-free diet plan needs to be put together by a dietitian. It is important for the child’s family to be able to identify ingredient lists and foods to be able to make informed decisions. The diet is known to usher in immediate respite and trigger intestinal healing almost immediately. If the condition is ignored, the child is exposed to the risk of contracting life-threatening ailments during adolescence. If the child shows no improvement when put on to a gluten-free diet, it is important to interrogate the content of gluten additives present in preservatives, modified food starch, and stabilizers, normally an integral part of rack-food components.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.