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Celiac Disease
in Denver

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, which is a protein in wheat, rye and barley. It is hereditary, which means it runs in families and can develop at any age. When an individual with celiac disease eats gluten, their body will create an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks result in damage to the villi, or the small, fingerlike extensions that line the small intestine and help absorb nutrients. For children, this can lead to malabsorption, affecting growth and development.

The symptoms of celiac disease may be different for children and adults. Children are more likely to experience digestive symptoms, while adults are more likely to have various symptoms. Some of the most common signs may include:

  • Abdominal bloating and pain.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Constipation.
  • Vomiting.
  • Weight loss.
  • Iron-deficiency anemia.
  • Fatigue.
  • Bone or joint pain.
  • Arthritis.
  • Liver or biliary disorders.
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin disease).

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It is never pleasant to have gastro problems, however, the staff at your office from top to bottom have been very accommodating. They take a personal interest in your condition and imagine this; THEY RETURN PHONE MESSAGES PROMPTLY. I'm not completely better yet but have total confidence they will get me there. I highly recommend this practice.

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How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?

Some people with celiac disease may be asymptomatic, meaning they do not have any symptoms but are still experiencing damage to the villi in their small intestine. Because of this, celiac disease cannot be diagnosed based on symptoms alone. There are two blood tests that can be performed to detect this condition, including serology testing and genetic testing. If the results of these blood tests indicate that celiac disease is present, your doctor may like you to undergo additional testing which may include endoscopy or capsule endoscopy for a clearer understanding of the extent of damage to the villi.

Celiac Disease Treatment Options

The only way to manage celiac disease is to follow a strict gluten-free diet. This means that individuals should only consume food or beverage with less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten content. Adhering to a completely gluten-free diet allows for the damage to the villi in the small intestine to heal, as well as prevents future complications. For children, healing of the villi usually takes about 3-6 months, while healing for adults may take several years. Celiac patients should have annual visits with their GI team to assess their symptoms, as well as testing of blood levels or bone density to ensure that treatment is effective.

Because many people with celiac disease are deficient in vitamins and minerals, taking certain supplements including copper, folate, iron, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, vitamin K or zinc can be helpful to help balance nutrients in the body.

Celiac Disease FAQs

What are 5 Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease may cause various gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms including diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating and nausea. However, other physical symptoms of celiac disease can occur outside of the GI tract; these include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, headache, brain fog, rash, depression and anxiety. Patients in the Denver, Englewood, Lone Tree, Castle Rock and Parker areas who are experiencing these symptoms can schedule a consultation today.

What Happens if I Have Celiac Disease but Still Eat Gluten?

Continuing to eat gluten with a diagnosis of celiac disease may increase your risk of various complications, such as weakening of the bones (osteoporosis), nutrient deficiencies, infertility and certain types of cancers. Even if you experience minimal or no symptoms, it is therefore recommended for individuals with celiac disease to maintain long-term adherence to a gluten free lifestyle.

What Foods Should I Eat with Celiac Disease?

Shopping for naturally gluten-free foods is a great, cost-effective way to adhere to a gluten-free diet. These foods include fruits and vegetables, meats and fish, dairy, potatoes, rice, beans, legumes and nuts. Gluten-free options are available at many restaurants and grocery stores; we recommend that you seek foods with gluten free labeling and inquire about gluten free practices when eating out at restaurants.

What Are the Best Treatment Options for Celiac Disease?

At this time, the only effective treatment option for celiac disease is to adhere to a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet. This includes the avoidance of foods containing wheat, barley, rye and triticale. It is also important to avoid any non-food products that may contain gluten, such as various medications/supplements and certain brands of makeup products, oral hygiene products and skin care products. Consultation with a registered dietitian is typically advised for ongoing education and counseling. Patients with celiac disease may develop deficiencies in various micronutrients, and gluten-free supplements may be recommended to optimize nutrition. In some cases, consultation with a mental health professional may be advised to address the impact of coping with a chronic medical condition.

What Can Trigger Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease occurs when the body's immune system has a heightened reaction to gluten, which is a protein that naturally occurs in many foods, particularly grains such as wheat, barley and rye. This reaction causes inflammation to develop in the small intestine. Celiac disease has a strong genetic link, and one of the primary risk factors for developing this condition is therefore a family history of celiac disease.

Can I Suddenly Get Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is not believed to occur suddenly, however anyone, at any age, can develop celiac disease. Symptoms related to celiac disease often occur for many months to years before a diagnosis is made, and some people with celiac disease do not experience any symptoms. Individuals with a family history of celiac disease in a first-degree relative have a 1 in 10 chance of developing celiac disease - it is therefore important that those with such a family history receive appropriate screening tests. If you are in the Denver area and have concerns about celiac disease based on symptoms and/or your family history, our specialists can help you understand your symptoms.

What is “Celiac Belly”?

Individuals with celiac disease may experience “celiac belly” as a result of gluten ingestion. Symptoms include abdominal bloating, distention and excess gas, often leading to the appearance of a larger belly. These symptoms occur due to inflammation in the small intestine which reduces the gut's ability to absorb certain nutrients.

Can Celiac Disease Go Away?

There is no cure for celiac disease, however it can be treated and controlled with strict avoidance of gluten ingestion. By avoiding foods, drinks, medications, and non-food products that contain gluten, in addition to equipment and surfaces that have been in contact with gluten, you can heal the inflammation in your gut. Patients in the Denver, Englewood, Lone Tree, Castle Rock and Parker areas who are seeking treatment can schedule a consultation with one of our expert providers today.

Your South Denver GI Team

At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Celiac Disease or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!

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