New Delhi: A recent study conducted by doctors at AIIMS and Maulana Azad Medical College has shown a startling increase in the number of celiac cases in the country. The study reveals that undiagnosed celiac or allergy to wheat may be a major cause of malnutrition in the country.
Three-year-old Gudiya has body of a one year old, all because of a condition that is increasingly prevalent across India. Gudiya's retarded growth is a result of celiac, an inherited allergy to gluten, found in wheat. Until her illness was detected, she kept being fed wheat, which her body just could not accept.
Her mother says, "She had constant loose motions. She couldn't digest anything. Her stomach used to swell up."
The figures for celiac disease are stunning. Recent studies at AIIMS and Maulana Azad Medical College in the capital show that celiac affects 4 times more people than HIV in India.
The allergy means wheat cannot be absorbed by the body leading to nutrient deficiency. Celiac can cause malnourishment, short stature, anemia, rickets and osteoporosis. It may also interfere with the patient's sexual growth leading to delayed puberty and infertility in women. In spite of its large scale prevalence, the general awareness about celiac is very low.
One of the reasons behind low Celiac awareness is that pharma companies are not interested in the disease since there is no medication for it. You just need to avoid wheat and its products.
Celiac patients need no medicines, just iron, vitamin and calcium supplements. And the only treatment for celiac is life-long avoidance of gluten-containing cereals like wheat, oats, rye and barley. Rice, maize and legumes like chana and soya are gluten-free.
According to the UNICEF, a third of the world's malnourished children live in India. Experts now claim that a major cause of this could be undiagnosed celiac. Doctors in Delhi are now trying to create awareness about the disease and its treatment.