Coeliac Disease (or celiac) disease is a disease of small intestines. This is a disease of immune system that affects the absorption of essential nutrients from the small intestines. The small intestines abnormally react to gluten (certain type of proteins) and produce the symptoms. Gluten is a protein that may potentially lead to problems such as Coeliac disease, dermatitis, autism, IBS, eczema, etc.
It is a disorder of small intestine in which a person has an immune reaction to eating Gluten. The delicate linings of the small intestines get damaged in response to the reaction of gluten, which lead to the symptoms.
Gluten is a protein found mainly in wheat, barley, oat and rye. Gluten is found in any food prepared from such cereals, including pasta, cakes, cereals, most types of breads, biscuits and certain types of sauces. It may be noted that wheat allergy and Coeliac disease (due to gluten hypersensitive) are two different conditions.
Most beers, which are made from barley, so they contain gluten.
As per a study, one in about every 1700 persons suffers with Coeliac disease. While, estimated 1% population in the US and the UK suffer with gluten sensitivity. This disease is observed in infants, children as well as adults; in males as well as females. It seems that the actual figures of people suffering with Coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity may be much more. It is interesting to note that the gluten-free products market in 2010 was $2.5 billion, which indicates the incidence of this disease group.
Since the linings of the small intestines get damages in response to gluten allergy, the inflamed intestines produce symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating of abdomen. Also, there is lack of absorption of essential components such as vitamins, minerals, which leads to loss of weight, lethargic feeling and other related symptoms.
Some babies may show skin rash due to gluten sensitivity. Many times, some patients may not have any symptoms. The symptoms may disappear once patient omits gluten in diet, by following gluten free diet. Infants Soon after introducing solid food containing gluten, the baby may fail to grow or gain weight. As food is not absorbed properly, the stools may be pale, bulky and offensive smelling.
The abdomen may be swollen and the baby may have repeated vomiting. The symptoms of coeliac disease in children may be similar to those in infants. In addition, poor absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients results in anemia and poor growth in children.
Anemia (low hemoglobin) in spite of eating well should make a doctor think of Coeliac disease. Adults: The signs and symptoms of coeliac disease in adults vary from person to person. Generally, the most common symptoms observed are diarrhea and weight loss. However, some people diagnosed with coeliac disease may have constipation and are found to be obese.
Patients may present with symptoms of indigestion, bloating of abdomen, mild abdominal pain and loss of appetite. In addition to these digestive symptoms, other symptoms include: Anemia, headache, fatigue, itchy blisters on skin (often called as dermatitis herpetiformis), numbness and tingling in feet and hands, osteoporosis, osteomalacia, damage to dental enamel, joint pain and acid reflux or heartburn.
Causes of Coeliac disease
Coeliac disease being an auto-immune disorder, where the immune system mistakes one of the substances that makes up gluten, called gliadin as a threat to body; and starts fighting against it. In this process, the body produces antibodies against the gluten and the small intestines get inflamed on the surface.
The surface of the intestine is usually covered with millions of tiny tube-shaped growths called villi. Villi increase the surface area of the gut and help it to digest food more effectively. However, in coeliac disease, the damage and inflammation to the lining of the small intestine flattens the villi, which reduces their ability to help with digestion.
One has to have a genetic predisposition to get affected by Coeliac disease. It often runs in families. Some of the genes found to be associated with the coeliac disease are HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8. Either one or both of these genes are present in every person with coeliac disease.
But merely having these gene mutations doesn’t mean you’ll get coeliac disease, other factors must be involved. Sometimes coeliac disease is triggered or becomes active for the first time after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection or severe emotional stress.
Some environmental factors like previous infection of the digestive tract or improper diet also play a role in triggering coeliac disease in infancy, childhood or adults. People with auto-immune disorders like diabetes type-1, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders or some neurological disorder like epilepsy are at a higher risk of getting coeliac disease.
There are several serology (blood) tests available that screen coeliac disease antibodies. The most commonly used test is called tTG-Iga. If the test result is positive, then a biopsy of the small intestine is carried out. If the biopsy report shows underlying damage to the surface of intestine, the diagnosis gets confirmed.
It is very important to include gluten containing products in the diet at least for 6 weeks before undergoing these tests. The tests may show negative, if you are on a gluten-free diet. If blood and biopsy results seem unclear to diagnose coeliac disease, gene (HLA) testing can be useful.
People affected by coeliac disease have HLA DQ2, HLA DQ8, or parts of these genes. But only 1 in 30 people having these genes will develop coeliac disease. This test is helpful in people who have already commenced gluten-free diet, as the gene test is not dependent on gluten intake. People who are gluten sensitive experience symptoms similar to coeliac disease, but will not have intestinal damage and will test negative for coeliac disease antibodies.
People with coeliac disease who continue to take gluten in the diet or who are yet to be diagnosed with coeliac disease are at a risk of developing long-term complications like osteoporosis, malnutrition, lactose intolerance, other auto-immune disorders and in rare cases bowel cancer.
A strict lifelong gluten-free diet is currently the only effective treatment in coeliac disease. The gluten-free diet allows the small bowel to heal and the symptoms improve considerably within weeks of starting gluten-free diet. In addition to gluten-free diet, it is advised to start vitamin and mineral supplements to replace any deficiencies at least for the first six months after diagnosing coeliac disease. If the small intestine in severely damaged, then a doctor may recommend steroids for healing of the small intestine.
For other associated conditions with coeliac disease like itchy skin rash, osteoporosis, anemia, etc. medications should be started accordingly.
Homeopathic treatment for coeliac disease
The homeopathic approach to treating coeliac disease is similar to treating any auto-immune or allergic disease.
Homeopathy recognizes coeliac disease as hypersensitive state due to immunological reactivity governed by genetic tendency; and treats it accordingly. The homeopathic medicines are targeted at controlling the body’s over-reaction to gluten and also aimed at controlling the symptoms.
The homeopathic treatment is largely based on the constitutional approach. Some of the commonly used medicines are Silica, Calcaria phosphorica, Phosphorus, Kali carbonicum, Thuja occidentalis, Calcaria Carbonicum, Sulphur, Lycopodium clavatum, and some more.
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