Often misconstrued to be just gluten intolerance is a genetic autoimmune disease which occurs when the affected individual consumes gluten. Gluten is a kind of protein found in grains like wheat, barley, oats etc. To put it simply, when people who suffer from this disease eat foods containing gluten, it triggers an abnormal response in their immune system which responds by damaging the small intestine.
Symptoms of celiac disease vary for each individual. Some may have diarrhea or abdominal pains, others may suffer from depression or irritability. Some of the common symptoms include;
Diarrhoea or constipation
Rapid weight loss
These symptoms are diagnosed during childhood in some cases and in adulthood for others. However, some people may have certain reactions after consuming foods with gluten which could be intolerance but a defining factor for celiac disease is damage to the lining of the small intestine. To determine which of the two conditions affects an individual, certain medical examinations have to be conducted. Since the symptoms for this disease is similar to other digestive diseases like irritable bowel syndrome or intestinal infections, it can be a bit difficult to diagnose.
In order to successfully diagnose Celiac disease, a complete physical examination has to be conducted. Aside from that, blood tests need to be carried out to search for certain antibodies that provide evidence of the disease and illnesses such anaemia and osteoporosis which occur as a result of it. A biopsy is also carried out to check for damage to the intestine.
Treatment for celiac disease should be determined by your physician based on certain conditions such as age, general health, medical history and the extent of the disease. Nevertheless, the only treatment for people with celiac disease is adhering to a strict gluten free diet. Certain products such as lipstick, medicines and vitamins may also contain gluten, so affected individuals have to be conscious not only of the food they eat, but also of other products they use.
In Nigeria, a lot of individuals remain ignorant about this disease. For the few who are conscious of it, they have either been diagnosed with the disease or have had some form of contact with an affected individual.
We suggest you speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you or someone you know experiences unexplained reactions when certain foods are consumed.
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