Celiac disease is a disease of the intestine, in which exposure to gluten (a protein found in certain grains, such as wheat) causes a destructive attack on the immune system. The inflammatory reaction damages the small intestine mucosa, and subsequently nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.
In recent years, both awareness of and diagnostic ability for celiac disease has advanced. “Even though the reasons for the increasing numbers of people diagnosed as gluten-sensitive have not yet been scientifically proven, one hypothesis is that greater consumption of processed food, that causes an increase in the penetration of the intestinal wall in the early stages of life, may contribute to the appearance of the disease, although we still know little about the reasons for its development,” notes Dr. Orly Eshach-Adiv, Director of the Pediatric Gastroenterology Service at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center.
The genetic tendency for the development of gluten sensitivity exists among many people. However, only around 30% of them will be diagnosed with celiac disease, making them around 1%-2% of the population. It should be noted that there are groups at risk with a tendency to develop celiac at greater frequency, such as those with Type 1 diabetes, patients with Down Syndrome, and, of course, first-degree relatives of those with celiac disease.
Symptoms of the disease
There are several symptoms that can indicate the existence of the disease, including diarrhea, stomach aches, constipation, anemia, delayed growth and development, and more. “If a child complains of one or more of these symptoms,” explains Dr. Eshach-Adiv, “he will be sent for blood tests to verify or rule out the disease. It was once usual to perform a biopsy to confirm unequivocally that the child had celiac disease. Over the past two years, if symptoms are suggestive of the disease, together with blood tests showing high levels of antibodies specific to the disease, there is no need for a biopsy. This is a significant innovation, especially when speaking of children, since it prevents the invasive procedure of a small intestinal biopsy,” concludes Dr Eshach-Adiv.
What's the solution?
Celiac disease, as noted, has no cure. Moreover, studies show that those with celiac disease are at high risk for developing obesity and sugar intolerance. One of the hypotheses is the cause is an unbalanced diet rich in processed gluten substitutes instead of high-fiber gluten-free foods.
The solution is eating gluten-free foods. “As we recommend to the entire population, both healthy and not, it is important to ensure correct nutrition, rich in fruit, vegetables, and legumes, alongside other foods including meat, fish, dairy foods, etc., and minimal processed foods,” explains Dr. Eshach-Adiv, and adds: “These help nurture the good bacteria in the gut, improve immune system function, and create better protection for the body, against both damage by gluten, if it mistakenly makes its way into the diet, and against other associated illnesses”.
If you think your child has some kind of gluten sensitivity – you are invited to arrange a consultation, by calling *6742