The month of May is recognized as the Celiac Disease Awareness month by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness in the United States. The illness affects the quality of life of patients, which are more likely to be women
Encountered on average by one in 140 people, Celiac Disease affects both adults and children alike and is mostly observed in women. Throughout the month of May, various activities are organized to increase awareness regarding this disease. May has also been deemed Celiac Disease Awareness week by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) in the United States. Allergy and immunology expert Assistant Professor Akgül Akpınarlı Antony said celiac is a lifelong disease caused by an allergic reaction and small intestine sensitivity against the protein gluten that becomes chronic over time.
Celiac is an autoimmune disease
Stressing that the main function of the immune system is to fight against infections, Antony said another function of the immune system is to develop tolerance to substances we are exposed to, including what we eat and drink, and that this disease is caused by an allergy to gluten in the small intestine and is a lifetime disease. Celiac is caused by an overreaction and not tolerating gluten, found mostly in wheat, barley and rye. Food intake is broken down in the small intestine and mixes with blood through the intestine mucosa. The abundant folds in the small intestine known as "villus" ensure that our bodies absorb the adequate amount of nutrition it needs. When celiac patients consume food containing gluten, however, due to the allergy observed in the intestine mucosa, the villus folds become damaged, their number diminishes and they narrow in size. Therefore, the surface of the intestine is reduced and the nutrition contained in foods we consume cannot be absorbed as easily. As a result, malnutrition occurs.
Celiac may be an insidious disease
Antony noted that the symptoms of the disease may be insidious and triggered due to infections, stress, birth, pregnancy and surgery. The symptoms for celiac are mostly detected through tests and examinations performed on the digestive system and include nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, having too much gas and smelly and oily feces, among others. In children, it usually manifests as malnutrition caused by inadequate absorption of nutrition and causes growth problems, slow growth, short stature, weight loss, anxiety and mood swings, delays puberty, stains enamel and more. Other symptoms are anemia, iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiency, bone pain, anxiety and depression, itchy rashes and blisters, fatigue, mouth sores, infertility, repeated miscarriages, menstrual cycle disruptions, epileptic seizures, paraesthesia in hands and feet, osteolysis, osteoporosis and headaches. Antony also said blood tests, biopsies of the small intestine and observing the reaction to a gluten-free diet are very helpful in determining celiac.