Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley that people with celiac disease cannot digest. It triggers an immune response and causes an allergic reaction that over time damages your small intestine's lining. Damaged intestinal lining makes it difficult to absorb nutrient. People with celiac disease also experience fatigue, diarrhea, bloating, weight loss, and anemia. Many people think you are more likely to develop celiac disease if someone in your family already has it. Is it really so? Can you lower your risk in any way? Let's find out now!
Is Celiac Disease Genetic?
Yes, you are at an increased risk if one of your biological relatives already has this disease. About 5-10% of people who develop this disease also have someone else in their families with the same disease.
You are also more likely to have it if you have the HLA-DQ8 or the HLA-DQ2 gene. It is possible to have one or both of these genes. However, even if you have these genes, it does not mean you will also have celiac disease but you are more likely to develop it at some stage. Genetic testing will greatly help in this regard.
Other Risk Factors
Both men and women can develop celiac disease. People of any race and age are at risk, but certain factors can increase your risk of developing this genetic autoimmune condition. For instance:
- You may end up developing celiac disease if you already have some other autoimmune diseases. The most common are type-1 diabetes and thyroid disease.
- Certain environmental factors may also put you at an increased risk of developing celiac disease. Some possible environmental influences are pregnancy, physical injury, infection, surgery, childbirth, and severe stress.
When you are at risk for celiac disease, lifetime screening is of immense importance. You can manage your condition better and in a more effective way if you know you have celiac disease as soon as possible. Your tests will look for the DQ2 and the DQ8 genes. It is important to look for both the genes for an accurate conclusion. You also need to bear in mind that sometimes people develop celiac disease even when they do not have these two genes. Similarly, you do not always have the disease if you test positive for these genes. Still, lifetime testing is of essential.
Signs You May Have Celiac Disease
Is celiac disease genetic? Knowing this is important, but you should also be able to identify the early symptoms of celiac disease. The signs and symptoms may vary greatly and are usually different in adults and children.
- Most adults experience fatigue, diarrhea and weight loss, but a large majority does not have digestive issues at all. These adults have other symptoms of celiac disease, such as mouth ulcers, anemia, damage to dental enamel, itchy skin, blisters, and loss of bone density. These people may also have headaches, joint pain, acid reflux, reduced functioning of the spleen, and nervous system injury.
- Children on the other hand may experience signs and symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, irritability, weight loss, delayed puberty, short stature, and some neurological symptoms, such as headaches, learning disabilities, seizures, and lack of muscle coordination.
Ways to Manage the Condition
Is celiac disease genetic? Yes, your risk increases when a biological relative has it already, but you can take certain steps to lower your risk and even manage your condition better if you have already developed it.
1. Take Dietary Supplements
Your doctor will consider your symptoms and recommend mineral and vitamin supplements in case your nutritional deficiencies are severe. You may have to take supplements that provide you with iron, folate, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, vitamin K, and zinc. You usually need to take these supplements in pill form, but some people cannot digest it properly. Your doctor may recommend injections to get certain nutrients when your digestive tract cannot absorb vitamins.
2. Pay Attention to Label
It is important to avoid anything that may contain gluten. You need to avoid packaged foods completely unless they clearly mention the food is gluten-free and have no ingredients that may contain gluten. It means you may have to avoid pastas, cereals, baked goods, as well as candies, beer, gravies, soups, self-basting poultry, salad dressings, processed luncheon meats, and seafood. Certain grains should also be avoided, such as oat because they may contain wheat during processing. Pure oats are safe to consume though.
3. Make a Diet Plan
You need to work with your doctor and determine the best diet plan for you. Several foods are allowed even when you have celiac disease. For instance, you can eat fruits, fresh meats, potatoes, dairy products, wine, vegetables, and distilled liquors. Your diet may also include certain grains and starches, such as arrowroot, amaranth, corn, buckwheat, cornmeal, rice, quinoa, pure corn tortillas, and tapioca.
Caron is usually a good substitute for gluten and you can also find several gluten-free products, including bread and pasta. You can order online if you fail to find gluten-free products in your local grocery store or bakery.
Keep in mind that no proven treatments are available to cure celiac disease. Enzyme therapies may help some people improve their digestion of gluten, but there is no scientific evidence that it will always work. Therefore, it is always better to be on the safer side and tweak your diet in a way that it excludes gluten. This is the only way to avoid dealing with complications associated with celiac disease.