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Celiac disease – the problem with gluten that does not understand age

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects people of all ages

Gluten is a protein that is present in the seed of cereals such as wheat, spelled, barley or derivatives. In people with celiac disease, the fact of ingesting this protein triggers an abnormal reaction of the immune system and causes an injury to the small intestine that affects its ability to absorb nutrients from the food such as proteins, fats, mineral salts, carbohydrates and vitamins. 

This autoimmune and chronic disease, which should not be confused with an allergy or intolerance, affects hundreds of thousands of people, with one in every 100 persons suffering from it, especially women. According to the data, only 25% of people with the celiac disease receive a diagnosis. 

The challenge of diagnosing celiac disease in adults

Until recently, celiac disease was believed to affect mostly young people and children. However, in recent years it has been seen that it also affects older people. Specifically, 70% of celiac disease diagnoses occur in those over 20 years of age and 20% in those over 60 years of age.

These data, which coincide with epidemiological studies, confirm that an important part of the diagnoses are made after the age of 50. They also tell us that celiac disease can persist for many years before diagnosis. 

As most individuals are unaware they have celiac disease, therefore it’s crucial to be aware of the signs and symptoms.

One of the problems is that this disease is not always easy to diagnose because, among other causes, there is no single specific test that works by itself to do so. 

Several are necessary to reach the final diagnosis. And, one of the most important aspects, these must always be carried out with a diet with gluten because, if it is withdrawn before, it is very difficult to reach the diagnosis.

Added to this difficulty is the fact that it is a multisystemic disorder, that is, the symptoms can affect any part of the body and differ between people in terms of type and severity. Among the most common are diarrhea, iron deficiency anemia, elevated transaminases, osteoporosis, or recurrent miscarriages.

The increased prevalence of celiac disease in older people not only responds to late diagnoses but also to the fact that it can appear already in adulthood.

In children, symptoms can include headaches, short stature, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychomotor retardation, anemia, oral thrush, increased liver enzymes or alterations of tooth enamel. 

Eliminate gluten from the diet, the only treatment

Celiac disease cannot be cured. This does not mean that symptoms cannot be controlled effectively by following a strict gluten-free diet and eliminating any product containing wheat, barley, rye, or derivatives.

According to experts, staples like meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and milk are gluten-free.

In general, symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea disappear within a few weeks, although the time it takes for intestinal damage to fully heal varies from person to person and can take between six months to two years.

Image Credit: Getty

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