What is Celiac disease?
It is a hereditary condition in which the protein in wheat, barley, oats and rye called gluten damages the small intestines. This leads to inability to absorb food, vitamins and minerals. It gradually leads to serious illness, malignancies and can be fatal.
 What are the symptoms?
The most confusing part of Celiac disease that it can present with wide ranging symptoms. Some people have typical symptoms:
- Anemia (low hemoglobin)
- Vague gastrointestinal complaints-hyperacidity, reflux, bloating, diarrhea, constipation
- Lactose intolerance
- Mouth ulcers
- Low energy and chronic fatigue
- Short stature and growth failure
- Loss of weight
- Joint pains
- Itchy skin, blistery rash, eczema
- Depression, psychiatric disorders like Schizophrenia
- Ataxia(unstable balance and jerky movements)
- Many may not have anaemia, gastrointestinal symptoms or weight problems.
A person need not present all of the above symptoms. In some, these symptoms can be mild or silent or atypical
 Is it like egg allergy or milk allergy or soy allergy?
No it is not. In other allergies there is no damage to intestine and therefore no malnutrition or risk of any other associated illness. Celiac disease damages the intestines.
 At what age does it happen?
It can happen at any age from childhood to adulthood - nine months to ninety years.
 Is it treatable?
Celiac disease is completely manageable with strict gluten free diet. This has to be a life long discipline, both while eating at home and eating out. Due to better awareness of the disease in western countries, there are more options for Celiacs.There are also many food companies who are dedicated to making ‘gluten free foods’. As the awareness of the disease in India is still in its infancy stage, most of the people who have been or are being diagnosed with the disease may find it difficult to deal with gluten free diets
Regular follow-ups with physician, nutritionist, blood tests and biopsies are recommended.
 How common is it?
According to estimated it affects 1%of the population. However, 97%of them are estimated to be undiagnosed; the ones who are diagnosed are the 25% who manifest with typical symptoms. The silent and atypical cases which usually go undiagnosed. A celiac iceberg represents the situation. The tip of the iceberg shows the diagnosed cases.
 What can it lead to?
- If undiagnosed, it can lead to autoimmune diseases - thyroid, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), lupus, liver disease, alopecia, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthirithis, type1 diabetes
- Other problems - Osteoporosis, joint pains, epilepsy, migraines, infertility, schizoiphrenia, depression, malignancies like adinocarcinoma, oesophageal cancer, on Hodgkin’s lymphoma, melanomas, thyroid cancer, eczema.
 Why is there no awareness so far?
Awareness is limited as:
- Perception of disease as uncommon
- Disease has changed its presentation – it is described in medical textbooks as a ‘rare diarrhoeal condition of childhood’.
- Symptoms can be confusing specially in silent and atypical types.
- You have to look for Celiac disease to diagnose it.
There are several celiac societies across the world including USA, Canada, UK, Australia, South Africa etc. working towards creating awareness about the disease in their countries. In India, Celiac society for Delhi is the first initiative.
 Does it run in families?
It may have a strong genetic component but there are others factors too. If a person is diagnosed with Celiac disease, there is a 20% chance that it may run in the family.
 Why worry?
Celiac disease is a significant medical condition often masked or mistaken for other diseases. Celiac disease is a huge iceberg, moving not so silently, across many of our lives.
 See Also
- Food Allergies
- Digestion Restoration
- Whole Grain
- Reading Food Labels
- ‘Free-From’ Food Market
CELIAC SOCIETY FOR DELHI
47, community centre, New Friends Colony, New Delhi-110025
Tel: 9910233614/ 011-41627007