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While many digestive health issues are the result of increasing age, poor dietary choices or a lack of exercise, more serious diseases of the digestive system are the result of genetic factors present from birth. These conditions often result in individuals needing to modify their eating and lifestyle habits to make up for a deficiency or defect in their ability to process foods.

One such health issue is known as celiac disease, which can affect the types of foods that individuals are able to safely consume. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with this condition, learning as much about it as possible is essential for establishing a proper dietary routine at home. Here is some background information on celiac disease to inform your family's lifestyle choices.

What is celiac disease?

According to WebMD, celiac disease is a condition that causes individuals to be unable to digest gluten properly. When foods that contain gluten enter the body, such as many carbohydrates made out of wheat, grain or rye, the immune system confuses the substance with an invasive presence. As a result, the body attacks gluten in the digestive tract, which can lead to inflammation and damage to the bowels.

Sometimes referred to as gluten-sensitive enteropathy or celiac sprue, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the digestive system. Like all autoimmune disorders, this means that the defective immune system has been tricked into inflicting self-damage on the body. Furthermore, this prevents people from drawing nutrients out of gluten-containing foods.

Common symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, difficult bowel movements and abdominal pain. As celiac disease can also block absorption of nutrients like folate, calcium, fat and iron, digestive health deficiencies can spread to other areas of the body as well. For example, individuals living with the condition may experience sudden drops in weight, anemia, musculoskeletal pain, mouth ulcers, skin rashes and even delayed menstrual cycles. In extreme cases, celiac disease can lead to seizures, nerve damage and developmental issues in children.

What are the causes and risk factors of celiac disease?

As an autoimmune disorder and digestive health issue, doctors understand the factors and progression of celiac disease. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, healthcare researchers remain uncertain about the specific causes that play into the disease's development.

Shifts to genetic structures likely influence celiac disease in certain individuals, though these gene mutations are not a guarantee of the condition. However, scientists are still searching for other potential biological or environmental influences that may result in celiac disease. For instance, while many people are born with celiac disease, others may not experience symptoms until a major life event, like pregnancy or a severe case of anxiety, triggers the condition.

Other risk factors associated with celiac disease include being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, family history of the condition, Sjogren's syndrome, microscopic colitis, Down syndrome, Turner syndrome or autoimmune thyroid disease.

What are the treatment options for celiac disease?

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse reports that there is no known cure for celiac disease. In order to treat this condition, the only viable option is to modify dietary choices to exclude foods that contain gluten. Intestinal damage caused by inflammation can begin to get better within several months of shifting off of a gluten-based diet.

The primary foods that contain gluten are products made from barley, wheat or rye. As many foods contain gluten in small traces, knowing which products to avoid and how to read nutritional labels is essential for those with celiac disease.

Individuals with celiac disease looking to improve their digestive system health may want to consider using Dr. Ho's Essential Multivitamin. This product contains no gluten and is safe to use when taken with food. The all-natural ingredients contained within these capsules can help boost digestive processes and nutrient absorption.

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