Celiac disease and gluten intolerance have become increasingly popular diagnoses in the medical community. That may be because more people have the conditions, or because science has helped us learn to recognize them more easily. Either way, researchers are looking at how gluten affects all kinds of conditions, from acne to arthritis.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is an amino acid found in wheat, barley, rye and other grain foods. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that interferes with the body's ability to absorb nutrients. When a person with celiac disease eats food that contains gluten, an immune response is triggered and the body begins attacking itself.
The immune system makes antibodies, proteins that the body creates to destroy harmful substances. These antibodies attack and destroy the lining of the intestines over time. Ultimately this can leat do malabsorption issues, malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies.
Celiac Disease Mimics Arthritis
Symptoms of arthritis which include joint pain and stiffness are also symptoms of the immune response caused by celiac disease. People who are gluten sensitive or who have been diagnosed with celiac disease may experience joint pain, swelling and stiffness if they eat food with gluten.
These similar symptoms make celiac disease difficult to diagnose. In fact, it's commonly confused with other conditions, such as arthritis. As such if you tell your doctor you're experiencing sore joints, they first may look to your bones not your intestines.
Arthritis Increases Your Risk for Celiac Disease
You have an increased risk of developing gluten sensitivity or celiac disease if you've been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). If you're gluten sensitive or have celiac disease, gluten could cause arthritis symptoms.
Like celiac disease, RA is an autoimmune conditions. In other words, your body mistakes normal, healthy parts of itself as foreign. Your body's immune system attacks and tries to destroy these harmless invaders. In the case of celiac disease, your body responds to gluten by attacking and destroying the villi, which line your small intestine and help your body absorb nutrients.
Be Smart With Your Food Choices
What you eat can affect how you feel. If you've been diagnosed with RA, be aware of how food affects your symptoms. Talk to your doctor about your risk for developing celiac disease.
If you've been diagnosed with RA, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of adopting a gluten-free diet. Today, more food companies are making gluten-free alternatives. Plus most whole foods are naturally gluten-free.