Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease: All About NOT Eating Gluten Image

Celiac disease is a digestive malady that damages part of the small intestine. As a result, it impedes proper absorption of nutrients, causing a number of potentially serious problems for those who suffer from it.

Celiac disease, also known as celiac sprue or gluten enteropathy, is caused by an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

Trouble occurs when a gluten-intolerant individual eats any food that contains gluten. Once that gluten is in the small intestine, the body sets off an immune response to defend itself against the gluten. In the course of this defensive reaction, the small intestine’s villi are damaged. Ordinarily, the villi serve to absorb nutrients from foods consumed. Once the villi are disabled, however, the body can no longer absorb nutrients. This ultimately triggers bowel problems.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Symptoms of celiac disease vary from one patient to another. The most common symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, depression and irregular menstrual activity. Children can suffer from delayed growth and tooth discoloration.

No cure exists for celiac disease. If left unchecked, it can lead to numerous complications or, in extreme cases, even death. However, eating an entirely gluten-free diet can prevent celiac disease symptoms. Avoiding all foods with gluten is a challenge because so many foods are made with or contain gluten. But those who do eat gluten-free can expect their symptoms to cease and, over time, their small intestine to heal.


National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). (2004, February). Celiac disease [NIH Publication No. 04-4269].