Gluten intolerance, celiac disease: focus on these diseases that affect almost 100,000 Belgians

It is an evil, or rather an evil, that affects many people: idiarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, constipation, chronic fatigue, skin problems, Canker sores…sometimes conflicting symptoms that can be signs of celiac disease or “gluten intolerance”.

While some are falling for the “gluten-free” trend – the advocates of a healthier lifestyle – others are forced to eliminate this protein from their diets at the risk of their health deteriorating.

This is especially true for people with celiac disease, a autoimmune disease Affecting the villi on the wall of the small intestine.

Celiac disease, underdiagnosed

Specifically, when people with celiac disease are exposed to gluten, their bodies produce antibodies that cause an inflammatory response in the duodenum (the part of the small intestine that is at the exit of the stomach). These antibodies attack the intestinal wall and prevent the various components of food from being properly absorbed by the body.

People with celiac disease who eat gluten are most at risk of deficiency symptoms“, warns Françoise Smets, Dean and Professor of the Faculty of Medicine at UCLouvain, specialist in celiac disease. “Because of their degraded villi, these people may be deficient in nutrients. This can lead to osteoporosis in the bones (due to lack of calcium and vitamin D absorption), anemia, depression, infertility or an increased risk of colon cancer“, explains the expert.

Most patients don’t know they have it

In Europe, it is estimated that one person in every hundred is affected by this disease. It is therefore more than 100,000 Belgians who could be affected in our country “but a large proportion of them do not know that they are affected“exactly Francoise Smets.

The classic symptoms of the disease areDiarrhea, abdominal pain, and signs of malabsorption such as weight loss or chronic fatigue.

However, the disease causes few symptoms in most cases, making it difficult to detect. It is also often suspected in serological tests when blood tests indicate a deficiency.

In fact, only one in five sufferers is diagnosed, which can pose a health problem: “Some are not aware of their shortcomings because they are not always visible from the outside. These deficiencies are often advanced as they are recognized‘ explains the professor.

It also appears that the disease is more common in genetically predisposed people. Corresponding the association of CHC gastroenterologists (CHC clinics MontLégia and Notre-Dame clinic in Waremme), “First-degree relatives of people with celiac disease (parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and children) have an average risk of developing the disease of 10%.

However, the disease can only be validated by a biopsy performed by a gastroscopy by a gastroenterologist. It can start at any age and affects women 2 to 3 times more often than men.

disability in life and impossible to treat

There is currently no treatment for celiac disease. The only solution for people with celiac disease is to eliminate gluten from their diet entirely, otherwise their health will deteriorate. A complicated measure from both a social and a practical point of view.

It’s difficult to say “I don’t eat gluten” when you go out with friends who are enjoying a meal you can’t eat” testifies Gaëlle Dodeur, Administrator of the Belgian Society of Scoeliaquia (SBC). “It is difficult on a social level because people with celiac disease have no right to separate. You pay dearly for the smallest prank, accidental or not. They immediately have intestinal problems and lose all previous efforts because their villi have to regenerate“.

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