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What is Gluten Intolerance?

Gluten intolerance or celiac disease is a chronic disease of the upper part of small intestine manifested in abnormalities of mucosa (lining). It is characterized by a permanent gluten (a type of protein which can be found in wheat, barley and rye) intolerance.

The cure for this disorder does not exist. Treatment is based on lifelong gluten-free diet. If patients strictly adhere to the diet, they can lead completely normal life. Otherwise, disease can become very severe because gluten causes damage to the lining of the small intestine.

Symptoms

Celiac disease occurs in genetically predisposed people. The first symptoms of celiac disease can occur after the introduction of solid food in infant’s nutrition - foods that contain gluten. It usually happens at the age of six months, or when baby’s birth weight is doubled. Celiac disease usually occurs up to the second year of life. According to recent studies, foods that contain gluten (wheat, oats, barley and rye) shouldn’t be introduced in the diet before the baby is one year old.

Celiac disease is manifested through a wide range of symptoms, which are classified as typical and atypical. Patient may have only one, two, or group of symptoms.

A typical form of disease starts early, with symptoms related to the digestive system: bloated belly, frequent stools, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, reduced appetite, weight loss, slow growth, lagging in growth and development, and apathy (despondency).

Atypical symptoms include: severe anemia, abdominal pain, signs of liver damage, hypoplasia (underdevelopment) of dental enamel, slow growth, delayed puberty.

Children with this intestinal disease experience a wide range of symptoms: 70 percent of them have diarrhea, which is manifested in numerous light, abundant, foamy, smelly stools, often with visible fat balls.

Constipation may occur from time to time, and feces (stool) is generally pale in color.

In addition to poor appetite, vomiting and anemia, the disease is often accompanied with listlessness, lethargy (lack of energy) and irritability.

Symptoms of malnutrition include loss of calcium, although the changes in the bones are more often seen in adults suffering from celiac disease.

A large number of children suffering from gluten intolerance are below ideal body weight or show signs of lagging in development. All these symptoms indicate the malabsorption syndrome. The limited utilization of nutrients (malabsorption) ultimately affects the whole organism.

Infants may experience so-called celiac crisis, which can be overcome only with the help of intravenous nutrition in the hospital.

Serious health disorders occur in patients with celiac disease due to lack of important vitamins. Lack of vitamin A causes night blindness, affects the skin and leads to weight loss.

Lack of vitamin D interferes with bone development, with accompanying rickets.

Lack of vitamin K reduces the possibility of blood clotting, while a lack of folic acid can contribute to anemia, which is very characteristic for celiac disease.

Treatment

Celiac disease is defined as a lifelong disease in all countries of the world. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet. Nutrition should not contain any gluten molecule. This treatment approach ensures a healthy life and full recovery to 95 percent of patients.

It used to be thought that gluten intolerance is children disease, which passes itself after puberty. It is not surprising that symptoms of celiac disease disappear while growing up, giving the impression of a full recovery. Unfortunately, during the years of the alleged recovery, the disease is still present and the damage is still there.

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