Kelly Oram may be just like you. He is a man in his 40’s who has had years of mysterious health complaints, from numerous broken bones to chronic stomach upsets, but he never got to the bottom of what was causing them…until recently that is, when his doctor made a connection between them and sent him for tests. And the underlying cause of all his problems? Celiac disease. This autoimmune disease had caused years of malnutrition, which left his body vulnerable and unable to fight off illnesses and injuries. Since being diagnosed, Mr Oram’s health has been restored, and a simple change in diet has changed his life forever.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the small intestine, and can lead to long-term health problems, ranging from malnutrition to cancer. It is caused by an allergy to the large protein found in many grains, called gluten; it is found in wheat, rye and barley.
When a sufferer eats gluten, an autoimmune response causes inflammation in the villi of the small intestine; these are the tiny finger-like projections in the lining of the gut, where nutrients are absorbed. This inflammation causes extensive damage to the villi, and prevents proper absorption of food, potentially leaving the sufferer deficient in many vital nutrients.
There is no known cure for celiac disease, other than a thorough avoidance of foods that contain gluten. Once this diet is observed, a certain amount of healing in the intestine is able to take place.
How Do You Know If You Have It?
The symptoms of celiac disease can be incredibly wide-ranging, due to the array of vital vitamins and minerals that a sufferer could be left deficient in. In children, the problems tend to be digestion-related: diarrhea, constipation, growth problems, vomiting and fatigue are amongst the most common seen, and classic visible signs of malnutrition can involve a distended tummy, and thin sinewy-looking legs.
In adults, the symptoms are altogether more varied, and as with Kelly Oram, can lead to years of misdiagnosis. They can include gastrointestinal problems like bloating, diarrhea and cramping, but they can equally range from anemia and depression, to miscarriages and arthritis, osteoporosis, stomach complaints and numbness in the hands and feet.
Although in many cases it’s hard to diagnose, it is unquestionable that the earlier the disease is caught, the less damage is inflicted on the intestine, and the quicker the patient can adapt and recover.
What Can You Eat With Celiac Disease, and What Should You Avoid?
Quite simply, you can eat anything that does not contain gluten- but this may not be as easy as you think. Gluten is used widely as a binding agent, and may be hidden in food where you least expect it. Food labels are now required by law to list potential allergens, and if gluten is present in a food, the label will always say so. However, a few foods that contain gluten that you may not have realized are: ice cream, soup, yoghurts, sausages, dressings, potato chips and candy.
Life With Celiac Disease
Many people find a gluten-free diet tough, and view the prospect of a life without their favourite foods as a real chore. There can’t be any cheating with celiac disease; the gluten-free diet must be strict and permanent to allow the intestine to heal, so it is a real commitment. However, many people soon stop craving the starchy, gluteny foods they once enjoyed, and find real satisfaction in knowing that they are only eating foods that are doing them good. After all, a life without the pain of celiac disease is surely worth the sacrifice.
What the Papers Say:
What People On the Web say:
When I was newly diagnosed I left the doctors office thrilled that after 2 1/2 years of very bizarre and uncomfortable symptoms following a bad virus and being told I suffered only from IBS for 16 years before that, I now had the answer. What the doctor didn’t share with me was….”What now, how to precede?” I about cried the first time walking into a grocery store and realized this was going to be no easy task to learn on my own.
I suffered with horrible problems for years. I would always have to use the bathroom after eating. I allowed this to go on far too long before seeking help. I feel much better these days, but the Celiac diet is hard to follow.
My symptoms included: Bloating, constipation, loose stools, fatty stools, occasional bloody stools, chronic abdominal pain, chronic pain in other areas of body, gas, undesired weight loss, positive test for wheat allergy at age 3, several negative tests for anti-gluten antibodies, 2 positive tests for autoimmune antibodies- ages 33 and 37, severe chronic fatigue, moodiness/anxiety due to poor health, infertility and multiple miscarriages, malabsorption related anemia, skin rash on hands and face.