Celiac Disease Management

What Is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a lifelong genetic autoimmune condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract when gluten is ingested.

Although most experts agree that individuals with certain genes can get celiac disease at some point in their lives, it is not yet understood what triggers the onset of celiac disease or when it actually happens. When it occurs in children it poses risks to a child's development and growth. Learn more about celiac disease in children.

Presently, there is no cure for the 1 in 133 individuals who are believed to have celiac disease in the United States, and the only known treatment is lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet.

Celiac disease is manageable. If you have it, the sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you can begin to manage symptoms and feel better. Visit a gastroenterologist to learn about celiac testing and management.

Find a Gastroenterologist

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein which, when ingested by an individual with celiac disease, triggers an autoimmune inflammatory response in the small intestine, causing damage to structures called villi. When villi are damaged, their ability to absorb nutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals) is greatly reduced, resulting in compromised nutritional status and increased risk for diseases of almost every organ system.

Celiac Disease Symptoms

One of the reasons celiac disease goes undiagnosed for many people is that the symptoms can vary from person to person. Certain people may not even manifest symptoms into adulthood, at which point they might mistake them for symptoms of an unrelated condition.

Symptoms of celiac disease may include any of the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Failure to thrive
  • Delayed weight gain and/or growth retardation
  • Skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • Discolored teeth
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Infertility
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Joint pain

Some conditions associated with untreated celiac disease are:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Vitamin K deficiency
  • Intestinal lymphoma
  • Dental enamel defects
  • Infertility and/or miscarriage
  • General malnutrition

Testing for Celiac Disease

Initially, a blood test is ordered to determine if antibodies against gluten are being produced. High levels of antibodies show increased immune reaction and a strong likelihood for celiac disease. This suspicion is usually confirmed by a gastroenterologist examining the villi via a small bowel biopsy, performed during an endoscopy – a short, minimally invasive procedure usually done on an outpatient basis.

Your medical provider will run a blood test to check for the markers for celiac disease. If it comes back positive then an endoscopy will likely be needed to confirm the diagnosis. It is important to not go on a gluten-free diet before a proper diagnosis is made.

How to Manage Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a lifelong condition, but with proper management, it should not be able to stop you from enjoying a healthy, active lifestyle. Our qualified health care professionals at our Celiac Disease Center can provide a wealth of information and resources to help you transition into a gluten-free diet. We lead support groups, offer educational classes, and help patients come up with a gluten-free diet that fits their personal tastes.

We offer comprehensive testing and treatment for celiac disease for adults and children. We can help you make positive lifestyle changes and improve your overall quality of life.

Contact our Celiac Center for more information at 973-322-7272.

Support Groups

Many national support organizations have local chapters which host regular support group meetings. Please visit the RWJBarnabas Health Events Calendar to search for support group meetings.

Learn More

To learn more about celiac disease, testing for the disease, and what it means to be gluten free, read Frequently Asked Questions about Celiac Disease.

Make an Appointment With a Gastroenterologist

Think you may have celiac? Make an appointment with one of our expert gastroenterologists today.

Find a Gastroenterologist

Patient Stories

  • Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is to accept the help you need.

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  • "I go to the Celiac Center at Saint Barnabas. My nutritionist ... also has a support group here at Saint Barnabas that I go to."

    Read More

Patient Stories

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Jersey City Medical Center
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The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital at RWJUH
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RWJ University Hospital Rahway
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RWJ University Hospital Somerset
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The Unterberg Children's Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center
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RWJ University Hospital Hamilton
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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
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Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus
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Celiac Disease Treatment & Care

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