Celiac means you cannot tolerate the protein gluten found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten causes the small intestine to become inflamed and unable to absorb nutrition properly. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, stomach gases, fatigue and losing weight, but the symptoms can vary widely. The trouble usually goes when you eat gluten-free foods.
You can get the celiac disease both as a child and as an adult. This text is about celiac disease in adults. Celiac disease is also called gluten intolerance.
Celiac Disease Symptoms
You may have one or more of the following symptoms if you have untreated celiac disease:
- Diarrhea and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Fatigue and depression.
- Weight loss.
- Joint pain.
- Rash in the mouth, so-called after.
- Vomiting and nausea.
- Blisters on the skin.
- Hard to get a pregnancy.
The symptoms you get and how severe they are can differ from person to person. The symptoms can also change with age.
Diarrhea and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract
It is common to have disorders of the gastrointestinal tract in untreated celiac diseases, such as diarrhea that does not pass, gases in the stomach and sometimes constipation. Many adults have had more or less long periods of diarrhea, which once began as the stomach flu.
Having problems from the gastrointestinal tract does not have to be due to celiac disease, but can be symptoms of so-called sensitive bowel . Sensitive bowel is also called IBS.
Blood in the stool is not a sign of celiac disease. If you have blood in your stool, you should seek care and be examined as there may be symptoms of any other bowel disease.
Fatigue and depression
You may feel tired and powerless in your body, for example when you are exercising. You may also feel a general resignation that may be reminiscent of depression.
The cause is mostly anemia and vitamin deficiency, for example, anemia due to iron deficiency or anemia due to deficiency of vitamins B12 and folic acid.
The fatigue can also be due to the inflammation that occurs in the intestine.
You can lose weight, but it is unusual to lose a lot of weight and lose weight. You may also vomit at times. Losing weight depends on the intestinal damage caused by gluten, but may also be because you may feel ill and have no appetite.
In celiac disease, you can also get pains in the skeleton, especially in the joints.
Celiac can also sometimes cause osteoporosis, that is, the skeleton becomes brittle. Osteoporosis usually does not cause any symptoms. The risk of breaking a bone due to osteoporosis is small.
The skeleton strengthens again when you start eating gluten-free foods. Osteoporosis is also called osteoporosis.
Rash in the mouth
You may have had periods of rashes in the mouth and burning on the tongue. The fact that it stings on the tongue may be due to a lack of vitamin B12.
Rashes and ulcers in the mouth are also called after or bleeding ulcers.
Blisters on the skin
There is a skin disease called skin celiac disease. In skin celiac disease, you get skin blisters that itch on the elbows, forearms, and buttocks. You do not need to have any clear symptoms from the gastrointestinal tract in skin celiac disease.
Hudceliaki is usually shortened to DH, after the Latin name dermatitis herpetiformis.
Hard to get a pregnancy
With untreated gluten intolerance, you may have difficulty getting a pregnancy known as infertility. When you start eating gluten-free foods, celiac disease no longer affects your ability.
What happens in the body?
Celiac disease means that your immune system reacts to the protein gluten found in wheat, rye and barley.
The immune system reacts
When you eat gluten, your body’s immune system reacts to the gluten that comes to the small intestine .
The reaction causes the lining of the small intestine to become inflamed and the intestinal mucosa eventually disappears. The intestinal fluid is on the inside of the intestine and absorbs food from the food. As the intestinal fluid disappears, it becomes increasingly difficult for the body to absorb and retain nutrients contained in the food. The greater the amount of gluten you get in you, the more the gut is damaged.
You can also get lactose intolerance that goes over. Lactose intolerance is because the intestine absorbs lactose when the intestinal fluid is destroyed. You can then get diarrhea and get gassy in your stomach when you drink milk. The sensitivity to lactose goes away when you eat gluten-free foods.
Celiac does not go over
Although the small intestine is damaged by gluten, you do not need to have any obvious gastrointestinal problems, and it can sometimes seem like celiac disease has passed. But it is not, celiac disease is something you have all your life.
Celiac disease can occur in other diseases and conditions
You are more likely to have celiac disease if you also have another disease in which the immune system reacts to its own tissue, a so-called autoimmune disease. Examples of such diseases are the following:
- Type 1 diabetes.
- Thyroid diseases, both hyperthyroidism, and hypothyroidism.
- Autoimmune liver diseases.
- Rheumatic diseases.
It is also more common to have celiac disease in Down syndrome and Turner syndrome .
Celiac is not a grain allergy
Celiac is not an allergy and should not be mixed with cereal allergy. Cereal allergy occurs in children and usually disappears as the child gets older. Therefore, grain allergy is uncommon in adults.
Cereal allergy means that you are allergic to one or more cereals, ie wheat, barley, oats, rye and rye wheat, maize, rice or millet. A person often responds directly if they come into contact with the allergenic substance. An example of a reaction is that the person can get swollen lips, become clogged and get swelling in their throat if they have got the substance in their mouth.
You can have symptoms without having a damaged bowel
Many people feel that they get worse from eating gluten, but in studies, there is no damage to the small intestine mucosa as in celiac disease. This condition is fairly recently discovered and is likely due to a reaction to another substance in cereals other than just gluten. Research is underway to find out exactly which topic it is.
The treatment is the same as with celiac, eating gluten-free foods. You probably do not need to be as careful that the food is completely gluten-free, as you need for celiac disease.
You need to continue eating gluten-free foods right up to sampling. Otherwise, it will not appear in the test answers if you have celiac disease. This means that it takes longer to get the right diagnosis and treatment.
This applies both before blood tests and if you need to have tissue samples from the intestine, so-called small bowel biopsy.
You are allowed to submit blood samples
At the health center, you are given blood tests that show if you have certain types of antibodies in your blood. In celiac disease, a certain type of antibody is usually formed in the blood. If the test shows that you have these antibodies, you are likely to have celiac disease.
Tissue samples are taken from the small intestine – small intestinal biopsy
The doctor may need a tissue sample from the small intestine to safely diagnose celiac disease. The tissue sample is taken by a gastroscopy.
The samples are then examined under a microscope to see if the intestinal fluid is damaged. Damaged bowel noise is the surest sign of celiac disease.
After the investigations
It takes about a week to get an answer to the blood tests. The test results from a small intestinal biopsy usually take about a month.
The treatment consists of eating foods that are completely gluten-free. Celiac does not go over, but you need to eat gluten-free foods for the rest of your life.
When you start eating gluten-free foods, the gut heals, usually within a few months. Often the symptoms decrease even before the bowel has healed.
You can read more about what you can eat and not eat in the article Food and cooking at celiac disease.
A dietician tells you what to eat
You usually get to see a dietician after you have been diagnosed. A dietician is a person who specializes in the diet. The dietitian goes through what foods you can eat and what to avoid.
It is important that you get good information early in treatment. The more you know about celiac disease and what to eat, the easier it is to avoid gluten and cook good gluten-free foods.
The dietitian also gives you advice on how to get fiber, minerals and vitamins. Otherwise, it can be difficult to get enough of these nutrients.
Even small amounts of gluten damage
It does not pose a long-term health risk to ingest gluten accidentally, but you may get symptoms from your stomach. This is because even small amounts of gluten lead to intestinal inflammation. It is therefore important that all the food you eat is gluten-free.
If you get gluten in you regularly, your old symptoms will eventually come back. You can also get new symptoms and the risk of osteoporosis increases. Younger people can also find it difficult to get pregnant.
Once you have been diagnosed, you will be followed up on a return visit. Then you and the doctor talk about how you feel and how it is possible to eat a gluten-free diet. The doctor will also examine you and you will be given blood tests.
You can also meet the dietician at the return visit if you need to.
Most often, the visits are made at the health center, but you can also have a visit to a hospital six to 12 months after you have received your diagnosis.
What does celiac disease depend on?
It is not clear why some get celiac disease, but heredity is an important cause.
It is also unclear what causes the immune system to attack the gluten that comes to the small intestine.
Living with gluten intolerance
Many people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease find it nice to find out what the problems are due to and that there is treatment. At the same time, it can be painful to realize that you need to eat gluten-free foods for the rest of your life.
There are more and more gluten-free alternatives
Starting to cook and eat gluten-free foods can mean a change, but after a while, it becomes a natural part of everyday life. There are many gluten-free products to buy and often cafes and restaurants can arrange gluten-free food. Buffets are often printed on which foods are gluten-free.
You can find recipes for gluten-free food in special cookbooks, on websites and on blogs. There you can also get inspiration for cooking gluten-free foods.
You can also read more about gluten-free foods in the article Food and Cooking at Celiac.
It is possible to share kitchens with someone who eats gluten-containing foods. But you need to pay attention to whether there is too much crumb or flour containing gluten, for example in a butter box or on a cutting board. In such cases, remove the crumbs from the butter and wipe off the cutting board.
It is possible to use colander, toaster and knives used for food with gluten. Remove any residues of gluten-containing foods, if any.
If you are very sensitive, it may be a good idea to have cooking utensils that are only used for gluten-free foods.
If you are going abroad
It is usually not very difficult to find gluten-free food at restaurants and cafes abroad. In many countries flour of wheat, barley or rye is not used in cooking in the same way.
The labeling of gluten-free products may differ from the labelling. Therefore, continue reading the table of contents on food products, as far as possible.
Tell your family, relatives, and friends
Tell your family, relatives, and friends that you have celiac disease, what you can eat and what to avoid. Explain that it is not possible to make exceptions now and then and that even small amounts of gluten damage the intestine.
Financial support for gluten-free foods
Gluten-free food costs more. On the Consumer Agency’s website, you can read how much more gluten-free food costs. In some county councils, you may receive financial support to cover the additional costs incurred. The financial support varies between the county councils.
You should understand the information
In order to be involved in the care and treatment, it is important that you understand the information you receive from the healthcare staff. Ask your health care provider if you do not understand.