According to Beyond Celiac – an organized team focused on educating people about the disorder – “Celiac Disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder, triggered by consuming a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye.” When individuals suffering from Celiac Disease consume gluten, the immune system reacts by damaging a specific part of the small intestine. When this part – called the villi – of the small intestine is damaged, it restricts the body’s ability to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, causing the individual to become malnourished.
A majority of people don’t truly understand the seriousness of Celiac Disease, nor how difficult it can be to live with this disorder. Due to the fact that there is currently no medication or cure for Celiac Disease, the only way to treat the disorder is to maintain a completely gluten-free diet, which can be extremely difficult. Although it is believed that a majority of those who suffer from Celiac Disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, recent statistics show that only about 1% of the population is actually diagnosed with the disorder. Perhaps even more startling is the fact that the average individual goes anywhere from six to ten years before being correctly diagnosed. However, because it is a genetic disease, individuals with an immediate family member who suffers from Celiac Disease have an increased chance of also having the disorder.
Some people with Celiac Disease don’t exhibit any signs or symptoms of the disease, and therefore either don’t know they are living with it, or simply ignore the fact that they have the disorder. However, even if no physical symptoms affect the individual, damage to the small intestine would still occur if they consumed gluten. Though it may be a struggle getting to the proper diagnosis, there are numerous warning signs/symptoms of a possible case of Celiac Disease. Some of the most common and noticeable symptoms of Celiac Disease include: Anxiety, irritability, depression, headaches or migraines, fatigue, joint pain, bloating or gas, constipation, skin rashes, anemia, tingling or numbness, diarrhea, poor weight gain, thin or weak bones, delayed growth in children, and infertility.
Individuals who suffer from one autoimmune disease are more likely to develop additional autoimmune disorders, as well as other illnesses. For instance, a recent study concluded that out of those living with Celiac Disease, the individuals whom are not vaccinated are approximately 30% more likely to develop pneumonia than others – especially in first year following diagnosis. Immune system disorders cause abnormally low or high activity of the immune system. Having extremely low or high activity of the immune system means that instead of fighting off the infections that may cause illnesses, antibodies begin to attack the body’s own tissue. Also, individuals with Celiac Disease are believed to be at higher risks of developing pneumonia because of the diminished spleen function (occurring in about 1/3 of people with the disease), which limits the body’s ability to fight the bacteria that causes pneumonia. (http://www.beyondceliac.org)
Pneumonia is highly contagious, and the abnormal activity levels of those with Celiac Disease put them at a greater risk of catching the illness. Pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics and rest; however, if gone untreated, the illness can become extremely dangerous – especially for anyone suffering from an autoimmune disease. Therefore, it is highly recommended that (especially) individuals who suffer from Celiac Disease – or other immune system disorders – attend routine appointments with their doctor, maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, and get regular vaccinations.