Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What is Celiac Disease?

Yesterday I explained why gluten is an issue if you have CD.  Today, I'm going to explain why that's a problem.

Here's a little review:
I know you're jeal of my artwork.

For someone who has CD, when the gluten proteins reach the villi in the small intestine, they trigger the release of white blood cells to attack and destroy the gluten.  The problem, though, is that in the process of destroying the gluten, the white bloods cells and antibodies also destroy the villi and the lining of the small intestine.  Remember, those villi are responsible for the absorption of nutrients.  So, we have three problems.

1.  The body can't effectively absorb nutrients if the villi are damaged or destroyed.  This leads to vitamin deficiencies of all kinds, as well as the problems and symptoms associated with the lack of that nutrient.  Lacking in calcium, for example, can lead to brittle, breakable bones.  Lacking in iron can cause fatigue.  And the list goes on and on.
2.  The immune system is so busy attacking gluten and the small intestine that it doesn't attack the junk it really needs to, the real bacteria and real viruses.  This leaves the body way more prone to colds, flu's and infections, and tends to slow healing time if you already catch a cold or flu.
3.  The destruction of the small intestine leads to major digestive system complaints.  Sorry, but this is where it gets gross.  Most celiacs experience any or all of the following: very painful abdominal cramping, nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, constipation, gas, and bloating.  Mild symptoms can be experienced daily, interspersed with viciously painful episodes that most people refer to as "attacks."

Remember, I'm giving a very basic overview.  This is the simplest way I can explain what happens.  Because CD is an autoimmune disease, you have to think of the body essentially attacking itself.  Autoimmune diseases are a lot more complicated than I can explain, mainly because they are so confusing to the medical community.  Many doctors used to think that CD was the only autoimmune disease that could be "cured" (or, at least, asymptomatic) if the patient stuck to a gluten-free diet.  However, we are finding that while the symptoms can be majorly lessened, it is impossible for CD to be completely cured by a gluten-free diet.

Up next:  Could you or someone you know have CD?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:04 PM

    I love this series ... what do you think the chances are that I could get Chris to read it? ;)


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