Celiac disease (sometimes Coeliac) is a specific condition that damages the lining of the small intestine preventing the proper absorption of food. The inability of the intestine to digest effectively causes the body to miss out on vital nutrients and vitamins, inevitably leading to various health problems. In Canada, the government is dedicated to helping people deal with the necessary change in diet and other accommodations through the Disability Tax Credit program for Celiac.
The intestinal damage brought on by celiac disease causes weight loss, bloating, diarrhea in the short term, and eventually affects the brain, organs, nervous system and bones, due to the lack of proper nourishment. Children are particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of celiac disease, as it can profoundly retard proper growth and development. Though exact figures are uncertain, it is estimated that approximately 300,000 Canadians suffer from this disease. What is also alarming is that in the past 25 years, the rates of reported celiac disease have nearly doubled.
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How Does Celiac Disease Affect the Body?
The small intestine is lined with small hair-like structures called villi. These villi work to absorb the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients the body needs from the food that is eaten. Celiac disease specifically damages these villi, which renders the body unable to process the nutrients from food necessary to maintain proper health.
The damage caused by celiac disease is due to a bodily reaction to the consumption of gluten, a protein found in barley, rye, and wheat. For those that suffer from celiac, eating gluten triggers an immune response in the small intestine that produces a destructive inflammation of the intestine’s lining.
An important distinction that needs to be made is that this is not an allergic reaction to gluten as some have theorized. Celiac is a life-long medical condition that can be managed, but unfortunately not cured.
Managing the Symptoms of Celiac Disease
If you are living with celiac and you continue to eat gluten, you risk further damage to the villi located in the small intestine. This can lead to a variety of health problems. Therefore, to maintain proper health, it is imperative that celiac disease sufferers live a completely gluten-free life. In order to do this, it is necessary for those with celiac to educate themselves on the foods and products that contain gluten. Some of these include:
- Wheat, barley and rye
- Imitation meat
- Soy sauce
- Certain medication
Unfortunately, there is no cure for celiac. There are no medications, nor are there any treatments available for those suffering from celiac disease. Only by following a strict gluten-free diet can the symptoms be properly managed, allowing for the intestinal damage to be fully restored.
By eating and living a gluten-free life, those suffering from celiac disease can eventually reverse the damage that has been done to the intestine. However, just because the symptoms might have vanished, a strict adherence to a gluten-free diet must be maintained or the inflammation will return.
Though celiac restricts and limits the available food options for those with the disease, it does not have to ruin your life. In recognition of the increasing frequency of those with celiac disease, more and more gluten-free options have become available for consumers. Most restaurants and grocery stores now offer gluten-free alternatives.
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Disability Tax Credit for Celiac
For your continued care, your part would be to satisfy the dietary requirements. From the end of the government is a Disability Tax Credit for Celiac offered to those with Celiac disease to assist them with any lifestyle changes necessary to conform to the strict gluten-free guidelines. If you have a child suffering from Celiac Disease, you can download our Disability Tax Credit Guide for Children to find out more information.