Celiac Sprue, or celiac disease, is an autoimmune disease of the digestive tract which affects nutrient absorption in the small intestine. A patient with celiac is unable to tolerate gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in most grains, such as wheat, rye, barley and some oat products. When ingested, the gluten causes the immune system to go on attack; which damages the small hairlike projections in the intestine that absorb nutrients. Over time the damage can become severe and can cause nutritional deficiencies in the patient.
Today, gluten-free items are available in every grocery store, bakery, and convenience store. The readily available products make life easier for celiac patients, but there is a downside to the near constant discussion of the effects of gluten. It has become quite trendy to be "gluten free." The problem is that researchers have yet to pinpoint the effects of being gluten-free on non-celiac patients.
We do know that Celiac is seen in family groups and is genetic in nature. Most celiac diagnoses happen during childhood, but it can appear at any point in your lifetime. Parents should comfort themselves to know that current research does not indicate that introduction of gluten in infancy affects the development of the disease.
If you suspect that you or a loved one have celiac disease, you should see your TDDC gastroenterologist immediately. Symptoms can include one or more of the following:
- Recurring bloating
- chronic diarrhea
- weight loss
- bone pain
- behavior changes
- muscle cramps
- tingling or numbness in legs