What is Celiac Disease?

A person with celiac disease (CD) cannot eat food that contains gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and in most oats (unless specifically labeled gluten-free).

CD is NOT an allergy. It is an autoimmune disorder, like type 1 diabetes, Crohn's, rheumatoid arthritis, and a host of others. Automimmune disorders are the result of an overactive immune system which mistakes some part of the body as a pathogen and attacks it.

In CD, when gluten is ingested, the body attacks the wall of the small intestine and destroy's the body's ability to process food and absorb nutrients. There is also a recognized form of celiac disease that attacks the skin, called dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). Celiac may also affect the liver, thyroid and nervous system in some people, but to what degree scientists are still uncertain.

When a person with CD stops ingesting gluten, the body (usually) gradually stops attacking itself and the intestine/skin is able to heal. Any re-introduction of gluten starts the autoimmune process back up again, whether or not any other symptoms appear. The amount of gluten required to kick off the autoimmune response has been measured in the 'parts per million', so it is very tiny.

Symptoms of CD may include one or more of the following:

abdominal bloating and pain
chronic diarrhea
pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
weight loss
failure to thrive in infants delayed growth and short stature
delayed puberty
dental enamel defects of the permanent teeth
unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
bone or joint pain
bone loss or osteoporosis
depression or anxiety
tingling numbness in the hands and feet
missed menstrual periods
infertility or recurrent miscarriage
canker sores inside the mouth
itchy skin rash

It is currently believed that the rate of celiac disease in those of European descent may be as high as 1:133, and that 97% of those who have it are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

CD is a serious disorder and should only be diagnosed by a medical professional before embarking permanently on a gluten-free diet.

For more information on CD symptoms and diagnosis, visit a recognized reliable site such as:

www.celiac.ca or www.celiac.com