gastrointestinal conditions

Celiac Disease

Plenty of people are eating a gluten-free diet these days and therefore avoid foods that include this protein found in wheat, barley and rye. However, true gluten intolerance is called celiac disease.

If you have celiac disease, your body's immune system mistakenly attacks gluten like it would viruses or bacteria. The way your immune system reacts damages the fine hair-like structures called villi, which line the small intestine and help you absorb nutrients. This damage can lead to a number of symptoms like:

  • Gastrointestinal problems like pain, gas and diarrhea
  • Low levels of certain vitamins and minerals
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness

Children with celiac disease may also be slow to grow or fail to develop properly.

Because the symptoms of celiac disease can mimic other gastroenterological disorders and diseases, celiac disease may be hard to diagnose. In addition to reviewing your medical history, your doctor may want to know if other people in your family have had similar issues—celiac disease runs in families.

Upper Endoscopy

Your doctor may also want to perform an upper endoscopy. This procedure allows your doctor visually check your digestive tract from your esophagus to your small intestine, where damage caused by celiac disease may be present.

The endoscope is a flexible tube with a small camera. It also includes tiny cutting tools that will allow your doctor to take tissue samples, or biopsies, to be checked under a microscope for damage. These biopsies will be examined at the laboratory under a microscope.

If your doctor finds that you have celiac disease, you’ll have to watch the foods you eat carefully. The only cure for celiac disease is to eat a gluten-free diet.