Celiac sprue is another name given to celiac disease. It is also known by other names such as gluten intolerance, gluten-induced enteropathy, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. This particular disease affects the digestive system of the body specifically the small intestines.
Celiac disease is one of the most under diagnosed illness in the western countries. In the United States, approximately 3 million Americans or about one in 133 people have this disease. Unfortunately, only one in about 4,700 is properly diagnosed.
This disorder of the small intestines mostly strikes people with roots from Northern Europe. It is reported to be most prevalent in Finland, Ireland and northern Italy. About one of every 250-300 people in Europe, North America and Australia is affected by celiac sprue. It is not common among African Americans and those of Carribean descent. Recent studies, however, have shown that those with Hispanic, Black and Asian descent can also suffer from celiac disease.
People suffering from this illness are not able to properly digest the gluten, a protein component of food found mostly in wheat, rye, barley and even oats. When this happens, the small intestine’s lining gets thinner eventually resulting in damage. This condition is scientifically termed as mucosal dysfunction. As this continues, the intestines then fail to absorb the nutrients needed by the body for growth and development.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies result leading to malnutrition if not diagnosed and treated early. Among the nutrients not absorbed by people with celiac sprue include minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium as well as Vitamins B1, B6, B12, A, D, E, K, folic acid and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Celiac sprue, when not treated for a long time, can lead to several complications and in worse cases, death. People not properly diagnosed increase their risk of developing gastrointestinal lymphoma, a certain form of cancer. Other illnesses that can develop include anemia, arthritis, ataxia, intolerance to cow’s milk, skin problems, diabetes type I, liver disease, migraine headaches, neurological disorders, obesity, osteoporosis and thyroid disorders.
Genetics are a major factor in celiac sprue. It has been found that people with relatives who suffered from the disease are more likely to develop the disorder as well. It can strike up to 10 percent of close family members of celiac sprue sufferers.
Among the common symptoms of this autoimmune disorder are diarrhea, depression, constipation, rashes, neuropathy, abdominal pain and bleeding, osteoporosis, diabetes, overweight, ataxia, nerve disease and abnormal increase of liver enzymes.
There are various tests to determine the presence of celiac disease. An intestinal biopsy is the most effective as it can examine the condition of the villi or the tiny finger-like protrusions in the walls of the small intestine and how severe is the damage.
Other tests are the IgG ELISA, a blood test; the IgA anti-endomysium test; another blood test known as the IgA anti-tissue transglutaminase test or tTG which measures the antibodies in human serum.
It is highly important that people who have symptoms associated with celiac sprue get a check-up early for proper diagnosis and treatment.