What exactly are the symptoms of Celiac Disease? It is so often under diagnosed and missed by the medical profession. Is it possible that you may have it?
Firstly it is important to understand that Celiac Disease affects the villi of the small intestine. The small intestine is the third stage of digestion.
Your mouth starts the process with production of enzymes as you chew your food. Then your stomach macerates all the food up and begins to chemically break it down. From then it moves into the small intestine where intestinal juice is secreted and more enzymes begin to break it down further into different nutrients and the process of absorption takes place. Proteins, fats and carbohydrates are absorbed from here.
The whole small intestine is about 5m long, but instead of it lying flat, it is coiled up into finger like projections, to increase its surface area for more absorption to take place. This is the area known as the Villi. Once absorbed from there, it moves into the blood stream and passes these nutrients onto each and every living cell to maintain life. The small intestine is also involved in protection against infection by lymph nodes.
In Celiac Disease, those villi in the small intestine have atrophied. They are lying flat. So if they cannot work to absorb the proteins, fats and carbohydrates, the whole body will be affected. Gluten destroys the villi, the centre of absorption.
Bearing in mind now that all these symptoms will in some way be related to the malfunctioning of the small intestine. Lets go through what some of those symptoms are:
Abdominal bloating and pain.
Vomiting and nausea.
Pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
Due to the problems in the Villi, absorption has malfunctioned and nutrients pass straight out of the body, leading to the chronic diarrhea. There are more microbes that can enter the system and particles of food are not digested. More infection can spread leading to constant “gastro”. The bowel flora is upset and due to lack of healthy gut bacteria, bloating and cramps may occur. Because food substances are not being absorbed, they can pass right through, leading to the gas, pale and foul smelling stools. Because stomach acid is not being neutralized in the small intestine, acid passes back up the oesophagus.
Because a celiac patient is not absorbing all the correct nutrients, he or she is basically malnourished and therefore very thin.(Weight Loss)
There is usually iron-deficiency anemia, due to malabsorption of iron and poor intake of calcium leads bone loss or osteoporosis.
There may also be:
•bone or joint pain
•depression or anxiety
•tingling numbness in the hands and feet ( known as neuropathy)
•missed menstrual periods
•infertility or recurrent miscarriage
•dermatitis herpetiformis ( occurs in about 20% of Celiac patients)
All of these can be explained by the defective mechanism in the gut. All the more reason once one has a correct diagnosis, to cut gluten completely out of ones diet, to allow for the gut to heal, and for al of these symptoms to alleviate.