Lack of awareness impedes the treatment of celiac disease in India

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine Comments Off

Genetic susceptibility is a major factor in the development of this condition

New Delhi, 09th April 2018: According to statistics, celiac disease affects almost 0.7% of the world’s population. In India, about six to eight million Indians are estimated to have this disease, and its prevalence in the North Indian community is 1 in 100.There is a lack of awareness about this condition and the need of the hour is to educate people.

Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Genetics has a major role in the prevalence of this condition and therefore, children are equally susceptible to it.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “People suffering from celiac disease cannot digest a protein called gluten which is found in barley and wheat flour. Gluten triggers immune system in patients to damage small intestine villi. As a result, patients cannot absorb nutrients from food and remain malnourished which could lead to anemia weight loss and fatigue. Celiac disease patients suffer from fat malabsorption. A gluten free diet is also recommended for patients with wheat allergy dermatitis herpetiformis multiple sclerosis autoimmune disorders autism spectrum disorders ADHD and some behavioral problems. Gluten containing cereals are wheat barley rye oats and triticale. Gluten is also present as a food additive in the form of a flavoring stabilizing or thickening agent. In these conditions one should switch over to gluten free foods.”

Gluten allergy, unlike traditional allergies, cannot be pinned down as its onset is gradual with symptoms that may resemble other conditions: headaches, stomach cramps, bloating, anxiety, depression, and so on. Gluten can gradually erode the villi in the small intestine and prohibit the body from absorbing nutrients from food.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “A person with celiac disease must stay away from items like wheat, rye, semolina, durum, malt and barley. It is a good idea to check labels at the back of packed products to check for traces of gluten. Some items that may contain gluten include canned soups, condiments, salad dressings, candies, and pasta. However, all this does not mean one cannot have variety in meals. It is possible to use alternatives such as rice, sorghum, quinoa, amaranth, bajra, ragi and buckwheat.”

Some HCFI tips.


Switching to a gluten-free diet is a big change and can take some time for a person to get used to. There are many naturally gluten-free foods which are also healthy and delicious. Some of these include the following.

  • Beans, seeds and nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
  • Fresh eggs
  • Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Most dairy products