What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a genetic disease that affects how the body processes gluten. For me, my body reacts to gluten like poison, sending out autoantibodies that attack the cells in my small intestine. In the end, it means I can't eat anything containing wheat, barley or rye, and most oats--even if it is just a trace amount.
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What are the symptoms of celiac disease?
Most of the symptoms for celiac disease are what you would expect for a disease relating to your digestive system: diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, nausea, flatulence, fatigue, weight loss, etc. However, celiac disease can also manifest in ways you might not expect, including things like irritability, a premature sense of fullness, depression, anxiety, and apparently, unexplained tingling in the fingers and toes. Because the symptoms of celiac disease are so varied, and may not manifest at all, it can be very difficult to diagnose accurately.
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What happens if someone with celiac disease ingests gluten?
Each person who has celiac disease experiences the disease somewhat differently. For me, the primary results of ingesting gluten are overwhelming fatigue, depression, irritability, or anxiety, and stomach cramps I typically describe as "having someone stick knives into your intestines and then twisting them tighter and tighter." Simply put, it causes physical agony, and on top of the pain, I always have the conviction that my large intestine is suffering semi-permanent damage.
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How do you know if you have celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an inherited genetic disorder, so if someone in your immediate family has it, there is a reasonable chance you do as well. Speaking from experience, however, it is also possible to have celiac disease without the disease being present in anyone you are related to. The best thing to do is learn about the disease, pay attention to your health, and talk to a medical professional if you suspect you have celiac disease or another chronic condition.