Celiac disease affects many people without them even realizing it. Many people report fatigue, digestive problems, inability to lose weight, or joint pain and they cannot figure out what is causing these symptoms. Celiac may be the cause.
Celiac disease, which is also referred to as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is almost always characterized by digestive and other symptom that come and go periodically through life, starting after the introduction of specific grains into the diet. There is a strong genetic link for people that have celiac disease. People of European descent are more likely to have the genetic marker associated with celiac disease, though it’s possible to have celiac without the marker. Celiac disease is also more common among people diagnosed with Down syndrome and Turner’s syndrome.
What does celiac disease do to the body and why is it associated with eating certain grains? Some grains have proteins on the cell surface called gluten and, more specifically, gliadin, which trigger the immune response in the intestinal tract. The immune system tries to neutralize the gliadin and, instead, damages the intestinal cells. The damage from this disease can also cause nutrient deficiencies, which may contribute to other symptoms in the body.
The symptoms associated with celiac disease come in two categories: problems that happen in the digestive tract and those that occur in other parts of the body.
The digestive symptoms may include chronic diarrhea or constipation; pale, foul smelling stool that floats in the toilet bowl; abdominal discomfort; vomiting; gas and bloating. Many symptoms occur in young children under the age of 5 years old.
Symptoms outside of the digestive tract are general and constant fatigue, anemia, iron-deficiency, weight loss, weight gain, bone pain, bone loss or osteoporosis, swelling in the body, joint pains, arthritis, canker sores in the mouth and an itchy rash called dermatitis herpetiformis. The nervous system can be affected with seizures, depression or anxiety, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.