By Melinda Martell
Guest Blogger, College of Nursing and Health Care Professions
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder. It is not something you can catch; it is not an allergy and it is not something you will grow out of. Contrary to some people’s beliefs Celiac disease is not caused by pesticides or genetically modified organisms.
If a first-degree family member has it, there is a chance yourself or your children could end up with it. Furthermore, it is quite common to have one of the genes (ex: HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8) associated with Celiac disease. Did you know that 30-40 percent of the United States population are estimated to have either the HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 gene or both, but only around three percent actually get the disease? A trigger of some sort is needed to “activate” the disease which can include pregnancy, an illness, appendicitis or menopause amongst other things.
The only current cure for Celiac disease is adhering to a completely gluten-free diet. When someone with Celiac disease has even one crumb of gluten, their immune system literally attacks the small intestine damaging the Villi, which are small finger-like projections that promote food absorption.
Here is a glimpse on gluten: gluten is found in wheat and wheat-related species like barley, malt, rye and spelt. Maintaining a gluten-free diet can be overwhelming at first because, let’s face it, gluten is seemingly in everything! Reading labels every time you purchase something is crucial to staying gluten-free and healthy. I highly recommend you do not limit label reading to foods only. Gluten can also be found in lotions, shampoo, body wash, makeup and Play-DOH.
If you suspect you have Celiac disease getting a diagnosis is a two-step process. The first step is while continuing to eat gluten (do not omit it from your diet before getting tested) ask your doctor for a Celiac panel. This panel will check your Tissue Transglutaminase (tTg) and Immunoglobulin (IgA) levels. If these levels are elevated the next step it to get an endoscopy. Endoscopies are considered the best way to confirm whether or not a person has the disease. It allows the provider to see any inflammation or damage to the small intestine and most importantly, the Villi. A small biopsy will be done and that will help confirm the Celiac diagnosis.
Celiac disease has a broad spectrum of symptoms; it does not just affect your gut, it can also affect your physical and mental health. Some of the more common symptoms are diarrhea or constipation, vomiting, weight loss, pale, smelly stool, fatigue, irritability, anemia and failure to thrive. Some people have no symptoms at all. If you suspect you have any of these symptoms or generally do not feel well, talk to your health care provider. Look for the next blog on celiac disease and why your relationship with your provider is important.
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About Melinda Martell
Melinda Martell was born and raised in Arizona and has spent the last decade supporting her husband in his military career and many moves around the country. She has two beautiful boys aged four and ten. Mrs. Martell’s youngest son was diagnosed with Celiac disease at two years old and it has been her mission to educate those both about the disease and how to be inclusive of children with dietary restrictions.
Mrs. Martell Recently moved back to the valley of the sun where she is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice as well as writing her first children’s book. When she is not busy with writing educating and carting kids off to sports, she enjoys traveling, camping, hanging out with family and volunteering.