The digestive tract is an integral part of the human body, which is also why it is so often plagued by numerous problems. While some are mild and easily treatable, many of these conditions are severe and can lead to death. Celiac disease is an intestinal issue that’s more common than people think and while some diseases are simple to manage, celiac disease can, in some instances, prove challenging to manage.
Dr Andrea Rajnakova is a gastroenterologist with plenty of experience in the field. Her advice on celiac disease has been featured in articles and publications. Here are some of her key takeaways with regards to managing this issue.
What is celiac disease?
In essence, celiac disease is an immune-based reaction that patients have to dietary gluten (storage protein for wheat, barley and rye). This reaction affects the small intestine, causing inflammation and damage to the area. 
What are the causes?
Celiac disease is a multi-organ autoimmune disease caused by gluten intolerance in genetically predisposed individuals. It primarily affects small intestine and resolves with exclusion of gluten from the diet.
Celiac disease can, in some instances, be triggered after surgery, pregnancy or childbirth. A viral infection or severe emotional stress can also activate the condition, leading to reduced absorption of micronutrients in the small intestine. Inflammation can also lead to the secretion of fluid into the intestine, causing diarrhoea, weight loss, abdominal pain and bloating. 
Celiac disease cases are on a gradual rise
There has been a substantial increase in the prevalence of celiac disease over the last 50 years and an increase in the rate of diagnosis in the last 10 years. Celiac disease is one of the most common causes of chronic malabsorption. 
Symptoms can also include non-gastrointestinal abnormalities
These symptoms include abnormal liver function tests, iron deficiency anaemia, bone disease, skin disorders, itchy skin rash formation and other manifestations. However, some individuals with celiac disease may experience no symptoms at all, which is why patients should see a certified gastroenterologist for a full evaluation. 
How is celiac disease diagnosed?
Celiac disease is usually detected through blood tests and the diagnosis is confirmed by small intestine (duodenal) mucosal biopsies taken during gastroscopy. These tests should be conducted when patients are on a gluten-containing diet. 
The solution to celiac disease is a gluten-free diet
The treatment for this condition is often fairly straightforward. Patients have to adopt a strict gluten-free diet, which usually also requires significant patient education, motivation, and follow-up. The results will be determined by compliance and adherence to a gluten-free diet with the support of trained dietician and gastroenterologist. 
What is a gluten-free diet?
As the name suggests, a gluten-free diet excludes all foods containing gluten (found mostly in grains). The complete exclusion of gluten can be challenging and frustrating at first but patience and determination can help patients improve.
Among other things, an ideal gluten-free diet requires more than five servings of fruits and vegetables every day as well as dividing daily food intake into five meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks). 
Celiac disease can be managed properly with the right guidance and knowledge. Speak to a gasteroenterologist and dietitician if you need help with your dietary transition and treatment process.
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