Celiac disease is a genetic disorder, that affects many people around the world. Diagnosing it is a tricky affair as its symptoms are not easily recognizable, but it can be done through certain tests, which can identify it as the sole cause.
The celiac or coeliac disease or gluten insensitive enteropathy is a side effect of an anomaly in the human genome, which makes the body intolerant to foods containing gliadin, which is a component of gluten. This intolerance to gliadin manifests itself, through a vicious attack by the immune system, on the assimilation centers of the body, in the small intestine, called villi. This happens after gliadin reacts with the enzyme tissue, called transglutaminase.
It is an allergic reaction of the immune system of the body, in which it mistakenly attacks the villis, considering the gliadin byproduct to be a pathogen. The villi are a set of cells that line the inner surface of the small intestine. They are responsible for assimilating nutrients from the digested food. If the villis are destroyed, assimilation system of the body is damaged. Nutrient assimilation comes to a halt. As a result, the victim suffers from malnutrition, constipation, and many more long range effects, if the problem is not diagnosed and rectified soon.
Gluten is a compound, formed from the proteins gliadin and glutenin. Barley, wheat, and rye contain gluten, which includes starch also. Celiac affected patients should therefore, avoid gluten-rich foods. The good news for the people affected by this disease is that the intestinal healing starts immediately, if they start having a gluten-free diet and avoid the culprit in the first place.
The classic symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, sudden lowering in body weight, and general lethargy or weakness. In infants, it may cause growth to be stunted. Lactose intolerance may be a side effect of this disease.
The destruction of centers of assimilation, the villi, causes a decrease in intake of some vital nutrients, like vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, calcium, and folic acid. This causes many mineral deficiency related diseases, like iron deficiency and megaloblastic anemia, and osteoporosis.
As the disease causes serious nutrient deficiency, many vital systems of the body are starved for vital ingredients, which are required for their operation. Therefore, many other diseases crop up.
Any disease is identified by tests, through the presence of specific antibodies, that the body generates in response to it. Similarly, celiac disease is identified by its specific antibodies present in the blood. It may happen that some people have stopped the intake of gluten foods. In that case, they would have to eat some, over a few weeks, for testing the presence of the disease.
In victims who are in an advanced state of development, experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, and serious loss of weight, an endoscopy and a biopsy may confirm the incidence of the disease. Endoscopy, which literally means ‘looking inside’ involves inserting a camera-attached tube inside the body, to get an actual picture of the affected organs internally. Biopsy involves removing some cell tissue from the duodenum (the initial part of the small intestine) for examination, under a microscope. These two procedures, along with the serological (blood) test, which identifies specific antibodies like anti-reticulin, anti-gliadin, or anti-endomysium, can definitely confirm the disease.
The only known and effective cure for celiac currently, is avoiding consumption of all kinds of gluten-rich food stuffs. The doctor supplies patients with a list of foods that they must avoid consuming. One can take help of an expert dietician, who can plan a food program accordingly.
The reason for lack of a cure is that the origin of this disease is a genetic anomaly. Researchers haven’t yet found a way to avoid the immune action of the body to gliadin, as there is a programming anomaly in the immune system itself, which lies in the genetic code. Still, celiac affected people can live normal lives if they only avoid gluten-related foods like wheat.