Harnaaz Sandhu Opens Up About Her Condition Celiac Disease; Know Everything About It From An Expert

Celiac disease is an immune disorder that is caused by gluten. Check out the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, risk factors, diet and treatment. 

Navya Kharbanda
Written by: Navya KharbandaUpdated at: Apr 03, 2022 09:36 IST
Harnaaz Sandhu Opens Up About Her Condition Celiac Disease; Know Everything About It From An Expert

Recently, Miss Universe 20211 Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu revealed that she is suffering from a condition called Celiac disease, while shutting trolls on the internet about her weight gain. Do you eat foods that contain gluten? Well, be careful of what and how much you eat as it can trigger certain diseases such as celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that gets triggered when you consume gluten. It is also referred as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Gluten is basically a protein, found in wheat, barley, rye, and many other grains. Gluten is responsible for making the dough elastic and it also gives bread its chewy texture. When someone with celiac disease eats something with gluten, their body reacts to this protein in a negative way and damages their villi in the small intestine. When the villi gets affected, your small intestine will not able to function properly, this making the nutrient absorption from food difficult.

Gradually, this can result in sudden weight loss, thus malnourishment, and it also makes your bone density weak, and other problems like miscarriage, infertility, neurological diseases and certain cancers. If your celiac disease is not getting better within a year without gluten, then it is referred as refractory or unresponsive celiac disease. Celiac disease is not exactly similar to gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity. People with gluten intolerance might even experience the same symptoms along with avoiding gluten. However, they do not show any immune response in the small intestine. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Radha M, Consultant Gastroenterology, Fortis Malar Hospital, about the symptoms, causes, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment and diet for celiac disease.

Celiac disease symptoms

Celiac disease is not similar to a general food allergy and the signs are very different. If you are allergic to wheat but eat a food with wheat in it, you will just have itchy or watery eyes, and difficulty in breathing. According to Dr. Radha, if you already have celiac disease or you eat foods with gluten in it, you might experience symptoms such as:

1. Diarrhea

Diarrhea is one of the most common symptom of celiac disease. Patient experiences loose watery stools. But, it should be considered that diarrhea can happen because of various other reasons as well. One must see a doctor for proper diagnosis if their diarrhea is prolonged.

2. Weight loss

Weight loss happens because of constant diarrhea in some cases, as intestines are not able to absorb all the nutrients. Weight loss may not be visible because celiac disease is also accompanied by bloating due to internal inflammation. Gluten free diet may help a person in gaining weight.

3. Nausea

Nausea is also frequently experienced as a symptom of celiac disease. It may happen due to excessive gas formed in our body. Patient may also experience the urge to vomit in some cases of celiac disease.

4. Fatigue

Fatigue is also one of the most common symptoms of celiac disease. This happens due to the decreased energy levels as the small intestine in not able to absorb essential minerals from the food. You can overcome this symptom by consuming a healthy diet.

Also read: Celiac Disease is affecting 7 million Indians

5. Constipation

Celiac disease causes both diarrhea as well as constipation. Gluten free diet cuts a lot of fiber from our diet. And due to the inflammation, intestinal villis absorb excessive moisture from our stools, thus leading to constipation.

6. Abdominal pain

Abdominal pain is usually accompanied by diarrhea or gas. Both of them can cause severe pain in the stomach. Pain is usually because of inflammation of intestines in celiac disease as our own immune system attacks the intestines. Some other rare signs and symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • Anemia
  • Loss of bone density
  • Joint pain
  • Headache
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Heartburn
  • Skin rash

Celiac disease causes

Your genes get combined with gluten containing foods and there are other factors that can be behind celiac disease, but the exact cause is still unknown. Moreover, infant-feeding methods, gastrointestinal infections and gut infection can also have a negative impact on your health and triggering this disease. At times, celiac disease might also get triggered post surgery, pregnancy, delivery, viral infection and even severe mental stress or emotional anxiety.

There is no proper evidence or research about the exact cause behind celiac disease. When the body's immune system reacts to gluten present in the food, the reaction damages the villis that are on the lining of small intestine. Villi contributes in absorbing vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food you consume. If your villi gets damaged, you will not be able to receive enough amount of nutrients even if you eat a good quantity of foods. And, as per Dr. Radha, the risk factors of celiac disease are:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Family history
  • Addison's disease
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Intestinal cancer

Celiac disease diagnosis

Not everyone with celiac disease will have the above listed symptoms. Some people might not even experience any symptoms, which can make the diagnosis very difficult. Many people with celiac disease are not aware that they actually have this disease. There are blood tests that can help with proper diagnosis, that are basically serology testing and genetic testing. It is important to get tested for celiac disease before going for a gluten-free diet. Restricting gluten from your diet might make your blood results appear normal, even if they are not. If the results of these tests indicate celiac disease, your doctor will do an endoscopy. If your doctor gets to know that you already have dermatitis herpetiformis, the expert might take a small sample of skin tissue to test under a microscope and perform a skin biopsy.

Celiac disease treatment

A strict and gluten-free diet is the only best way to prevent and treat celiac disease. Removing gluten from your diet will slowly reduce the inflammation in your small intestine, making you feel better and recover at the end. Infants have a tendency of getting treated quicker than adults. If your small intestine is severely damaged or you have refractory celiac disease, your doctor might suggest you to take medicines in order to manage the  inflammation. So, your diet plays a major role in treating this disease. According to Dr. Radha, the foods that these patients should eat and avoid are:

To eat:

  • Eggs
  • Fruits
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Vegetables
  • Corn
  • Quinoa
  • Meat and poultry
  • Fish

To avoid:

  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Graham flour
  • Bulgur
  • Durum
  • Wheat
  • Spelt
  • Cereals
  • Wheat starch

Therefore, these were the symptoms, causes, risk factors and treatment of Celiac disease by Dr. Radha M. Celiac disease can get worsened if you ignore and leave it untreated. It can cause other complications such as cancer, malnutrition, pancreatic disease, infertility and even weak bones. The best thing you can do to treat this condition is changing your diet. It is important to check the labeling of packaged foods before consuming them. Common products like toothpastes might also have gluten. You can also talk to your dietician about your diet schedule to prevent and treat this disease.