What Is Celiac Disease?

Muffin with Raspberries Celiac Disease is a disease of the digestive system that damages the small intestines and causes interference with the absorption of nutrients from food. It is triggered by consumption of the protein called gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and malt. This protein cannot be tolerated by those who have Celiac Disease.

Because this is an autoimmune disease, when a person with Celiac Disease eats foods or uses products that contain gluten, their immune system is put into motion by damaging the villi (tiny fingerlike protrusions in the small intestines). These villi are what normally allow nutrients from the food to be absorbed through walls of the small intestines into the bloodstream for nourishment. Without these healthy villi, a person can become malnourished, no matter how much they may eat.

At present, the only treatment for Celiac Disease is adhering to a strict gluten-free diet. Left untreated, people with Celiac Disease can develop further complications such as other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease and cancer.

Check out the Gluten-Free Cheat Sheet

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Gluten Intolerance or Celiac Disease?

Many people test negative for celiac disease, but still feel immensely better on a gluten free diet. They test negative on all the strict-criteria celiac blood tests and biopsy, but still can have mild to severe health problems caused by eating gluten. Unfortunately, many people who are gluten-sensitive are often told that, since they don’t have celiac disease, they do not need to follow a gluten-free diet. However, their health and lifestyle can improve drastically when they do follow a gluten free diet.

Read about Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Because Celiac Disease results in malabsorption of nutrients, the signs and symptoms can vary depending on the severity. There is really no such thing as a “typical” set of syptoms because the amount of intestinal damage and the degree of abnormal nutrient aborption can vary so widely from person to person. Because there is a wide range and a varying degree of symptoms, there is often a long length of time associated with an accurate diagnosis.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

  • * Abdominal cramps and bloating
  • * Distended abdomen
  • * Increased appetite (due to lack of nutrient and food absorption)
  • * Diarrhea
  • * Easy bruising
  • * Back pain
  • * Muscle cramping
  • * Constipation
  • * Mouth sores
  • * Nose bleeds
  • * Constant fatigue
  • * Weight loss
  • * Tooth enamel defect
  • * Infertility
  • * Nausea
  • * Depression
  • * Anxiety
  • * Panic attacks
  • * Vitamin deficiencies (especially Vitamin B12, D and K)
  • * Iron deficiency anemia

Common Symptoms in Kids

  • * Failure to Thrive
  • * Extremely Low Weight/Height
  • * Increased appetite (due to lack of nutrient and food absorption)
  • * Pale skin
  • * Dark Circles Under Eyes
  • * Lack of Energy
  • * Abdominal Distention
  • * Diarrhea
  • * Lack of Appetite
  • * Irritability