What is Celiac Disease?

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease (CD) is a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten. This results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, triticale, barley. It is the gluten in the flour that helps bread and other baked goods bind and prevents crumbling. This feature has made gluten widely used in the production of many processed and packaged foods.
Although statistics are not readily available, it is estimated that 1 in 133 persons in Canada are affected by celiac disease.  
A wide range of symptoms may be present. Symptoms may appear together or singularly in children or adults. In general, the symptoms of untreated celiac disease indicate the presence of malabsorption due to the damaged small intestine.  
At present there is no cure, but celiac disease is readily treated by following the gluten-free diet.  


What are Symptoms of Celiac Disease?

Symptoms of CD tend to be unspecific and vary greatly from one person to the next. Some of the most common symptoms are anemia; chronic diarrhea and/or constipation; abdominal bloating, pain, cramping or gas; weight loss; fatigue; deficiency in vitamins A, D, E, K; bone/joint pain; easy bruising; irritability; depression; migraines; infertility/miscarriages; and lactose intolerance.

What is the Diagnosis for Celiac Disease?

A definitive diagnosis can ONLY be made by a small bowel biopsy. The biopsy is performed by a specialist in the gastrointestinal field. The biopsy must be done before treatment is started.


What is the Treatment for Celiac Disease?

At present, CD has no known cure, and can only be controlled by strict adherence to a gluten-free diet for life.

There is a great variation in sensitivity to gluten among those with celiac disease, and although one may have no obvious symptoms, damage to the intestinal lining may still occur.  

What is Dermatitis Herpetiformis?

Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is a chronic skin condition with a characteristic pattern of lesions, with intense itching and burning sensations. The most common areas are the elbows, knees, back of the neck, scalp, the upper back, and the buttocks. Facial and hair-line lesions are not uncommon; the inside of the mouth is rarely affected. The rash has symmetric distribution.

DH is associated with an abnormal mucosal lining of the small intestine in most individuals, identical to those changes seen in persons who have celiac disease. Most people with DH have little or no bowel complaints while only a small percentage may have diarrhea, bloating, bulky stools or abdominal cramps. Despite the possible lack of bowel complaints, diagnosis of DH requires a small bowel biopsy, performed by a gastroenterologist.

What is the Role of the Thunder Bay Chapter?

The role of the Thunder Bay Chapter is to assist its members through programs which:
  • Increase awareness of the disease among health care professionals and the public.
  • Keep members informed of new information and new products available as well as local restaurants that can accommodate a gluten free diet.

  • Provide information for newly diagnosed celiacs on how to organize their kitchen in order to bake gluten free and where to find gluten free products.  A certified counselor will meet with these people free of charge.

  • Offer assistance to families at time of grief, sickness or in times of need, such as providing Christmas hampers.
  • Assist one or more members to attend the Annual National Conference.

  • Strive to provide a scholarship fund for celiac children.

  • Provide support to our satellite chapter.