What to Know About Celiac Disease

By Humber River Health

Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine in individuals. When people with this condition consume gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, their immune system attacks the lining of the small intestine, leading to damage and inflammation.  This damage can cause a range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, unexpected weight loss, fatigue, and malabsorption. Dr. Eric Leong, a Gastroenterologist at Humber River Health, assists patients with celiac disease and has provided useful information for those living with the condition.

Dr. Eric Leong

How can you test for celiac disease?

Blood tests can detect the presence of antibodies that are produced when a person with celiac disease consumes gluten. The most commonly used blood test is the tissue transglutaminase antibody test (tTG IgA). If the blood test is positive, an intestinal biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

An intestinal biopsy involves taking a small sample of tissue from the lining of the small intestine and examining it under a microscope. This can reveal damage to the intestinal villi, which is a hallmark of celiac disease.

It is important to note that for accurate test results, you should not be on a gluten-free diet at the time of testing, as this can affect the accuracy of the results.  If you suspect you have celiac disease, it is important to consult with a doctor or a specialist who can guide you through the testing process and help you with a diagnosis.


What tips can you provide for those living with celiac disease?

  1. Follow a strict gluten-free diet. This is the most important aspect of managing celiac disease. Avoid foods that contain gluten, such as wheat, rye, barley, and some oats. Check labels carefully and be aware of hidden sources of gluten.
  2. Learn how to cook and bake gluten-free. Cooking and baking at home can give you more control over the ingredients and help you avoid cross-contamination. There are many gluten-free recipes available online, and you can also find gluten-free substitutes for your favourite foods.
  3. Communicate with others about your dietary needs. Let your family, friends, and coworkers know about your dietary restrictions and the importance of avoiding cross-contamination. This can help you feel more comfortable and confident when eating out or attending social events.
  4. Be aware of hidden sources of gluten. Gluten can be found in unexpected places such as soy sauce, beers, ales, lagers, malt vinegars, and some types of candy. Be sure to read labels and ask questions if you are unsure.
  5. Take care of your gut health. People with celiac disease may have an increased risk of nutrient deficiencies and other gastrointestinal issues. Eating a balanced diet can help promote gut health.
  6. Stay up-to-date on the latest research and information. Celiac disease research is ongoing, and new information is constantly emerging. Stay informed and talk to your doctor about any new treatments or recommendations that may be available.
  7. Living with celiac disease may present some challenges, but with the right strategies and support, it is possible to manage the condition and lead a healthy, fulfilling life.


Anything to add?

Celiac disease is relatively common, affecting approximately 1% of the population worldwide.  There is currently no cure for this condition, and the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet, which involves avoiding all foods and products that contain gluten. Living with celiac disease may present some challenges, but with the right strategies and support, it is possible to manage the condition and lead a healthy, fulfilling life.