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Most frequently asked questions on celiac disease

Celiac disease is an organic autoimmune disorder which is characterized by an abnormal immune response to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. The impact of the disease can be measured by structural abnormalities. The immune response to these foods triggers inflammation in the small intestine, causing damage to the intestinal lining and interfering with the absorption of nutrients from food.

Celiac disease affects millions of people worldwide, with estimates suggesting that around 1% of the population may have this condition.

Let us look at the most frequently asked question on celiac diseases

Q1. Why is gluten harmful to individuals with celiac disease?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. In the case of patients that are suffering from celiac disease when consuming gluten, it triggers an immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine. This immune reaction is caused by specific antibodies, such as tissue transglutaminase antibodies, which mistakenly target the gluten proteins.

The immune response leads to inflammation and damage to the small intestine. As a result, individuals with celiac disease experience malabsorption of essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. This can lead to potential long-term complexities as well in the body.

Q2. What are the common symptoms of celiac disease?

Here are the most common symptoms of celiac disease – 

  • Digestive issues like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation
  • Many individuals with celiac disease experience persistent fatigue and a sense of overall weakness.
  • Since malabsorption of nutrients occurs in celiac disease cases, it can result in anaemia, osteoporosis, and other related complications.
  • Itchy skin rashes can also occur in such cases

Q3. How is celiac disease diagnosed?

A healthcare professional can better diagnose the problem with the help of physical examination and conducted tests.

To confirm the diagnosis, blood tests are conducted to measure specific antibodies associated with celiac disease, such as anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibodies and anti-endomysia (EMA) antibodies. Elevated levels of these antibodies suggest an immune response to gluten.

In cases where blood tests indicate a likelihood of celiac disease, an intestinal biopsy is performed. During an endoscopy, a small tissue sample is obtained from the lining of the small intestine and examined under a microscope for characteristic changes associated with celiac diseases

Q4. What is the treatment for celiac disease?

The only effective treatment is the exclusion of products with gluten such as wheat or barley. There are many products which contain gluten in some form or the other and it is important to know in detail about the product that is being consumed. Gluten can be found in sauces, dressings, packed foods and certain medicines. Hence checking the label is really important. 

It is essential to consult with a registered dietitian or nutritionist experienced in celiac disease to develop a well-balanced and nutritious gluten-free meal plan.

Individuals with celiac disease may need to supplement their diet with vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients to correct deficiencies caused by malabsorption.

Q5. Can children develop celiac disease?

Celiac disease can manifest at any age. In children, however, the symptoms can be different like failure to thrive, delayed growth, chronic diarrhea, irritability, abdominal distension, and even behavioral changes. 

If celiac disease is suspected in a child, it is important to consult with a pediatrician who specializes in gastrointestinal disorders. Proper diagnosis and timely intervention are crucial to prevent complications and support the child’s growth and development.

It is worth noting that children with a family history of celiac disease have a higher risk of developing the condition.

Q6. Can celiac disease be associated with other medical conditions?

Celiac disease is correlated with a bunch of other issues like

  1. Type 1 diabetes: Individuals with type 1 diabetes have a higher risk of developing celiac disease, and vice versa.
  2. Autoimmune Thyroid Disease: There is an increased prevalence of autoimmune thyroid diseases in individuals with celiac disease.
  3. Autoimmune liver diseases: Celiac disease has been associated with conditions like autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cholangitis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis.
  4. Neurological disorders: Celiac disease has been linked to certain neurological conditions, including peripheral neuropathy, ataxia, epilepsy, and migraine.

Q7. Is there a cure for celiac disease?

Currently, there is no known cure for celiac disease. The most effective treatment is to cut out gluten from the diet. A gluten-free diet should be created with the help of a nutritionist. 

Q8. Can individuals with celiac disease consume oats?

Oats do not contain gluten so they can be consumed. Oats are however grown along with wheat in a lot of places and there might be a chance of some cross-contamination. 

There are however “gluten-free” oats which are specially grown, processed, and tested to be gluten-free 

Additionally, some individuals with celiac disease may have a specific immune response to avenin, a protein found in oats, which can cause symptoms similar to a gluten reaction. Therefore, it is recommended that individuals with celiac disease consult with their healthcare team before introducing oats into their diet to determine if they are well-tolerated.

Q9. Can celiac disease develop later in life?

Celiac disease can be developed at any point in time. People who were earlier tested negative could turn positive for celiac disease later on. Celiac disease can be triggered by various factors, including genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and potential changes in the immune system.

In some cases, individuals may have a latent form of celiac disease, meaning the condition is present but not yet symptomatic. Later in life, due to factors such as hormonal changes, pregnancy, surgery, infections, or significant life events, celiac disease may become active and manifest with symptoms.

Q10. Can individuals with celiac disease have a normal, healthy  life?

Absolutely! With proper management and a gluten-free diet, patients with celiac disease can lead a healthy life. 

Patients can effectively control their symptoms, allow the small intestine to heal, and reduce the risk of long-term complications. As long as a person is vigilant about reading food labels, identifying hidden sources of gluten, and avoiding cross-contamination during food preparation the symptoms will be under control. It is advised to seek help from a nutritionist to chart out a gluten-free diet. 

With proper education, self-care, and support, individuals with celiac disease can thrive and enjoy a fulfilling and healthy life.


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