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6 Possible Causes Of Celiac Disease

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Causes Of Celiac Disease

Family history, specific genetic mutations, and other autoimmune disorders make you more likely to have the disease. Childhood illness, the age at which gluten was introduced in your diet, and how long you were breastfed matter too. Knowing what causes celiac disease and whether you are at high risk can help you get screened early.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disorder that manifests with one or more of over 300 different symptoms.1 The discomfort it causes and the toll it takes on your health can make you wonder, “Why me?” Understanding the causes or even whether you are at risk can help you get a better grip on your situation and handle it correctly.

What Is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a digestive problem that affects the small intestine of your body, damaging it. Unfortunately, it could possibly result in long-term digestive issues that prevent your body from receiving the nutrients it requires. In some people, the disease may affect other parts of the body as well.2

An autoimmune problem, celiac disease makes you very sensitive to gluten found in commonly consumed grains, flour, and food products from grains like wheat and barley. Your body triggers an immune response when you eat these foods, causing you to experience abdominal pain and bloating, constipation or diarrhea, fatty/foul smelling stool, vomiting, fatigue, and irritability.3

Causes And Risk Factors For Celiac Disease

The causes of celiac disease are not fully understood, but there is evidence that links it back to certain genetic mutations. But genes aren’t the only cause of celiac disease. As the National Health Service in the UK explains, as much as a third of the overall population has the mutation linked to celiac disease. Yet a small fraction of these develop the problem. In other words, environmental factors come into play to trigger the disease in some individuals and not in others.4

While not strictly “causes”, certain risk factors can increase the chances of someone developing or having celiac disease. Here is a look at what those are, so you can assess your own situation better.

1. Genetic Mutations

Certain genetic factors such as HLA-DQ associated with the Human Leukocyte Antigen genes could be one reason of celiac disease in some families. These genes control the way your immune system develops and any glitches tend to result in certain autoimmune disorders. With celiac, your body reacts to portions of the protein sequence of gluten in grains like rye, wheat, and barley and causes inflammation when it shouldn’t. These mutations can be passed down from generation to generation, which is why if you have a sibling or parent with celiac disease, you may also be at risk.5

Research has found that 95 percent of those with celiac disease have the HLA-DQ2 genetic factor and almost everyone else has the HLA-DQ8 genetic factor. You can be tested to check for the presence of these genes. Some people may have both mutations.6

2. Family History

If you have a family member with celiac disease you have a 10 percent chance of developing the condition. If you have an identical twin with the problem, your risk shoots up to 75 percent, compared to when it is any other family member.7

3. Childhood Illness

Contracting rotavirus or other digestive system infections in your early childhood could increase the chances of getting celiac disease.8

4. Age At Which Gluten Was First Eaten

Gluten introduction to a baby’s diet also plays a role in their risk of developing celiac disease. If an infant is given gluten before they are even three months old, that makes them especially susceptible. It is recommended that no gluten be introduced till a baby is at least six months old.9

5. Not Being Breastfed For Long

There is research that indicates the longer you were breastfed as an infant, the later you are likely to develop celiac disease.10 Also, if you were introduced early to gluten as an infant and were off breast milk by that time, your risk of developing celiac disease early is probably higher.11

6. Other Health Problems

Autoimmune problems like thyroid disease or type 1 diabetes make you more likely to develop other autoimmune problems, including celiac disease.In fact, data from the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center highlights that celiac disease is found in 1 in 56 people who have related symptoms, compared to 1 in 133 in the healthy population.12

These are some of the illnesses or disorders that have been associated with raising the risk of celiac disease.13 14

  • Thyroid problems
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Ulcerative colitis or inflammation of the colon
  • Neurological disorders of the nervous system and brain like epilepsy
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Turner syndrome

What To Do If You Suspect You Have Celiac Disease

If you do suspect you have celiac disease you will need to get tested for the condition after consuming gluten, undergoing a blood test. The doctor may next prescribe an endoscopic biopsy of the small intestine to confirm the diagnosis. They will check to see if the damage to your intestine is similar to what is expected with celiac disease. The final confirmation comes if your condition improves after switching to a gluten-free diet.15

Should you be diagnosed with celiac disease, you will need to work with a nutritionist to plan a diet that factors in your problem with digesting gluten. Besides grains like wheat and barley, you will also have to avoid and food products that contain these. That means breads with gluten and even beer are off the cards.

References   [ + ]

1. What is Celiac Disease?. Beyond Celiac.
2. Celiac Disease Definition & Facts. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
3. Celiac Disease Symptoms. Celiac Disease Foundation.
4, 8, 9. Causes of coeliac disease. National Health Service.
5. Genetics. Coeliac UK.
6. Celiac Disease: Who is at Risk?. Beyond Celiac.
7. Genetics. Coeliac UK.
10. Celiac Disease Symptoms & Causes. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
11, 13. Causes of coeliac disease. National Health Service.
12. Celiac Disease Facts and Figures.University of Chicago CeliacDisease Center.
14. Celiac Disease: Who is at Risk?. Beyond Celiac.
15. Celiac Disease Screening and Diagnosis. Celiac Disease Foundation.