When the body reacts to glutens present in food antibodies are released to protect against the perceived threat. These antibodies attack the lining of the intestine and, over time, damage the lining of the small intestine where nutrients and vitamins and absorbed. This reaction is the most severe symptom of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder. There is no known cause of celiac disease.
There is no cure for celiac disease, but patients can remove all traces of gluten from the diet to prevent the antibody reaction that damages the villi of the small intestine. Removing gluten from the diet is difficult as wheat is a main source of gluten. Wheat is the main ingredient in most pastas and breads, but it is also added to processed foods. Patients with celiac disease must treat gluten with the same caution as patients with severe food allergies – complete avoidance.
Trying to Conceive
The majority of celiac disease diagnosis is delivered to patients between the ages of 40 and 60, but that does not mean younger men and women do not suffer from the condition. It is estimated that 1% of the population suffers from celiac disease, but the condition remains largely undiagnosed as symptoms mirror conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. But, unlike irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease is thought to affect both male and female fertility; making it difficult to conceive. The Canadian Celiac Health study reported that more than 14% of women with celiac disease faced infertility or miscarriage.
It is possible to carry a pregnancy to term with celiac disease without medical issues. Patients are advised to follow the strict gluten-free diet used to keep reactions and symptoms to a minimum prior to pregnancy. Gluten-free diets provide all the necessary vitamins, nutrients and calories the body needs during pregnancy.
Medical issues during pregnancy do exist, but tend to be reserved for women with undiagnosed celiac disease. If the condition is left untreated during pregnancy there may be increased risk of preterm labor, anemia and low birth weight.
There is no reason women with celiac disease cannot breastfeed. The autoimmune response that occurs with celiac disease is not passed on or triggered by antibodies in breast milk. Some doctors believe breastfeeding protects infants against celiac disease and other conditions involving immunity.