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Celiac FAQ

Celiac FAQ

Celiac disease is a widespread autoimmune disease, which affects the small intestine drastically. Being an autoimmune condition, it is not something that we test for here at the Intolerance Lab. It does, however, affect some of our customers, and we want to discuss why someone who has confirmed Celiac disease may not get a positive result to wheat intolerance on a food intolerance test.

Celiac disease and food intolerance are two very different things, which we are going to discuss today. We are also going to take a look at what it means to have Celiac disease, how you can get tested for it, and how you can best manage the condition. Let’s get into it!

Celiac disease explained

Celiac is a hereditary autoimmune disease, which occurs in the presence of gluten in the diet. When a Celiac patient eats gluten in any form, this sets of a cascade of immune reactions and inflammation. The end result of this is severe damage to the villi in the small intestine. These villi are essential to health because they absorb nutrients from food into the body. You can imagine the issues that are caused by not being able to absorb nutrients efficiently. Not only are nutrient deficiencies commonplace in Celiac sufferers, but it puts their risk of developing other autoimmune conditions and health complications up very high.

Gluten itself is a protein found in grains, most commonly wheat, barley and rye. It is also found in small amounts in other grains and most processed foods you can find at the supermarket, including things like ice cream and condiments. We have an article titled ‘Gluten FAQ’ that goes into this in great detail. Please go and have a read of this to learn all about gluten, what foods its found in, and how you can best avoid it in your diet.

It can sometimes seem to people that Celiac disease has had a sudden onset. However, the damage is often caused at a very slow rate over many years, until the body literally can’t take any more. Then the minor symptoms that may have been present can suddenly turn severe.

Celiac disease goes by a few other names, which is essential to note when you are doing your own reading into this. Those names are:

  • Coeliac disease
  • Celiac Sprue
  • Gluten-sensitive enteropathy
  • Tropical Sprue

How common is Celiac disease?

Not so long ago, Celiac disease was a little known condition. Nowadays, it is increasingly prevalent. Some estimations agree that one person in every hundred people in America suffers from the disease.

Worldwide the most recent estimate is that 1.4% of the entire world population has Celiac disease, with calculations based on biopsy and blood testing.

Celiac disease risk factors.

Celiac is a non-discriminatory disease, affecting people from all races, ages and genders. To date, the most common known risk factors are:

  • Genetics. Family history of the disease within your immediate family members puts your risk up to tenfold.
  • Some existing autoimmune conditions put your risk up dramatically. These include Type 1 diabetes and thyroid conditions.
  • Addison’s disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Digestive disease, specifically colitis
  • Genes. The HLA-DQ2 and the HLA-DQ8 gene are known risk factors.
  • Dysbiosis in the gut. Current research is delving into the role that bacterial imbalance plays in developing celiac disease, with a positive connection appearing.
  • Antibiotic use before a child is two years old is also connected to developing celiac disease later in life.
  • Exposing children with celiac disease in their family to gluten also increases their risk of developing celiac disease in later life significantly.

Celiac disease common symptoms.

Celiac disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose on symptoms alone because everyone experiences it differently. This list covers the most commonly seen symptoms in adults with undiagnosed Celiac. 

  • Nutrient deficiencies. Anaemia or iron deficiency is a very common one that shows up, especially if it keeps coming back with no known reason.
  • A bumpy, red, itchy rash on the skin called Dermatitis herpetiform. This is a classic gluten rash.
  • Constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, gas and heartburn are the most common digestive symptoms. In adults, these digestive issues are not always present.
  • Migraines or headaches with no known cause.
  • Fatigue or exhaustion, again with no apparent known cause.
  • Mouth ulcers. If these occur frequently, gluten could be the culprit.
  • Unexplained tingling in your extremities.
  • Weak or brittle bones, including osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • Arthritis or other joint pain
  • Recurrent miscarriage
  • Irregular menstruation or other menstrual cycle issues
  • Depression, anxiety, other mood disturbances
  • Fatty liver, liver sclerosis or other non-alcohol-related liver damage
Children more commonly experience digestive upsets, mainly bloating, diarrhoea or stomach pains. Anaemia, weight loss and a failure to thrive, headaches, poor concentration and ADHD also occur.

Health implications for celiac sufferers.

Undiagnosed or untreated Celiac disease can cause a host of follow on health complications. Some common conditions that can occur include:

  • Iron and Vitamin D deficiency are very common, but any type of nutrient deficiency can develop in untreated Celiac.
  • Increase risk of weak bones, bone breakages and osteoporosis. The primary nutrients needed for healthy bones can’t be absorbed when the small intestine is damaged.
  • Unexplained recurrent miscarriages can often be caused by undiagnosed Celiac.
  • Pregnancy also requires many nutrients, which are often very deficient in celiac sufferers.
  • Cancers of the bowel or intestines occur in people who are Celiac but continue to consume gluten.
  • The development of further food intolerances, lactose intolerance in particular. This can often be rectified once gluten is removed from the diet.
  • Nervous system disruptions and mood disorders are frequent. Anxiety, depression, fatigue, migraines or headaches.
  • Thyroid issues. Gluten is a known causative factor in thyroid disruptions.
    Further autoimmune conditions are also commonly developed in untreated or undiagnosed celiac patients.

Testing for Celiac disease.

Celiac is one condition where you must get a confirmed diagnosis through the proper testing channels. There are three testing options, with a combination of blood and biopsy recommended for absolute certainty. To get accurate results on these tests, you need to be consuming gluten as a regular part of your diet. If it is not present in your diet, your results can be false negative because your small intestine may have healed without the presence of gluten.

 

Blood test – this is the first port of call when your doctor suspects Celiac. The test looks for autoimmune markers, and a high level will usually be present in celiac patients. However, this test can give a false negative, which is why a biopsy is recommended as well.

Biopsy – an endoscopic camera is inserted into the small intestine, with a small biopsy sample taken at the same time. Damage, inflammation and the condition of your intestine can be assessed, and a diagnosis confirmed that leaves no doubts.

Genetic test – this will find out if you carry the HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 gene. It is believed that everyone with celiac disease has one of these gene types present. This test can be done via saliva, swab or blood testing.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition, and we’d just like to note here that our bio-resonance hair intolerance test does not test for any autoimmune conditions. If you have tested positive for Celiac, you may also not get a positive reading for wheat intolerance. This is because autoimmune diseases like Celiac, and food intolerances like wheat intolerance, are very different bodily reactions. We will discuss the difference between the two further on in this article.

Can Celiac disease be cured?

No, there is no known cure at the present time. However, the disease can be put into remission and very effectively controlled by following a strict gluten-free lifestyle. Avoiding gluten in the diet completely will reverse any symptoms and help you to prevent flare-ups and further damage.

If you’ve been diagnosed with Celiac disease and feel overwhelmed at the prospect of going gluten-free, we highly encourage you to seek out a nutritionist who specializes in this area. There are many of them available today, and they will be able to give you advice on what to eat and what to avoid from the beginning of your journey.

Please take a look are out article ‘Gluten Intolerance FAQ’ for an excellent overview of where to start on a gluten-free lifestyle journey.

Celiac Disease vs Food Intolerance

While these two conditions can present in similar ways, they have very different mechanisms or ways of working in the body. They are not interchangeable, and you can have one without the other.

Celiac disease, as described above, is an autoimmune condition that causes a considerable overreaction when gluten is consumed. The amount of inflammation and immune overreaction causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is eaten. Healing occurs only when gluten is completely removed from the diet, and complete healing can take a long time.

Food intolerance is not an autoimmune condition. It is a reaction to food components that commonly occurs in the digestive tract. Still, it can also occur in any body system. The symptoms are many and varied. When someone has a gluten intolerance, they may present with similar symptoms to someone with Celiac. However, the most significant difference is that the body does not attack the villi in the small intestine, and there is no autoimmunity present. When gluten is taken from the diet, the symptoms disappear within hours to days. 

Also, food intolerances can occur to any food, whereas Celiac disease only occurs as a reaction to gluten.

Someone can have positive blood and biopsy results for Celiac, but a negative result to wheat intolerance on a food intolerance test. In-fact this commonly happens. The reason is that bio-resonance food intolerance testing picks up intolerances, not blood antibodies or genes. Likewise, Celiac testing cannot detect food intolerances, and so won’t pick them up. The two conditions are not in any way the same thing.

If you are a diagnosed Celiac but get a negative result to wheat intolerance, you still need to avoid ALL wheat and gluten-containing products to keep your Celiac disease under control.

In Summary

Today we have delved into the complex autoimmune condition of Celiac disease, and also looked at the differences between Celiac Disease and Wheat intolerance.

We cover all of the facts on Celiac Disease, including the symptoms, risk factors, health implications and how to best manage it for symptom resolution.

An essential area for Celiac patients to understand is testing. Testing needs to be done correctly, and so we cover the testing options and how imperative it is that gluten is in your diet at the time of testing. If it is not present in your diet, you may get false-negative results and years more of suffering.

Lastly, we discuss why Celiac disease and wheat intolerance are not the same thing, and how it can be that you are a diagnosed Celiac, but wheat intolerance does not show up on your intolerance test.

This can be hard to understand, and so we’ve tried to explain it simply and effectively. We hope you get a lot out of this article.

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