What is Celiac Disease?

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.
When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.
Celiac disease is hereditary, meaning that it runs in families. People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease.

Long Term Health Effects

Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods or medicines that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems. These include the development of other autoimmune disorders like Type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS), dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash), anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, short stature, and intestinal cancers.


Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease is lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. People living gluten-free must avoid foods with wheat, rye and barley, such as bread and beer. Ingesting small amounts of gluten, like crumbs from a cutting board or toaster, can trigger small intestine damage.

Undiagnosed or untreated celiac disease can lead to:  Long-Term Health Conditions

Iron deficiency anemia
Early onset osteoporosis or osteopenia
Infertility and miscarriage
Lactose intolerance
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Central and peripheral nervous system disorders
Pancreatic insufficiency
Intestinal lymphomas and other GI cancers (malignancies)
Gall bladder malfunction
Neurological manifestations, including ataxia, epileptic seizures, dementia, migraine, neuropathy, myopathy and multifocal leucoencephalopathy

Other Autoimmune Disorders

In a 1999 study, Ventura, et al. found that for people with celiac disease, the later the age of diagnosis, the greater the chance of developing another autoimmune disorder.

Autoimmune Conditions Associated with Celiac Disease
Autoimmune Condition Prevalence in CD Population
Addison’s Disease
Autoimmune Thyroid Disease (Graves/Hashimoto’s)
Autoimmune Hepatitis
Crohn’s Disease
Dermatitis Herpetiformis
Gluten Ataxia
Idiopathic Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Microscopic Colitis
Multiple Sclerosis
Peripheral Neuropathy
Primary Bilary Cirrhosis
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
Sjögren’s Syndrome
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
Ulcerative Colitis

Read in more detail at http://celiac.org/celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/#vCC3YR5pZ15Ia4FU.99


Celiac Disease Symptoms

Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose because it affects people differently. There are about 300 known symptoms which may occur in the digestive system or other parts of the body. Some people with celiac disease have no symptoms at all. However, all people with celiac disease are still at risk for long-term complications, whether or not they display any symptoms.

abdominal bloating and pain
chronic diarrhea
pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
weight loss
irritability and behavioral issues
dental enamel defects of the permanent teeth
delayed growth and puberty
short stature
failure to thrive
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Celiac Symptom Checker


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