Celiac Disease (CD) is a chronic digestive disorder found in susceptible individuals. Damage to the mucous surface of the small intestine is caused by a reaction to the ingestion of foods containing gluten. The inciting toxic protein fractions, collectively called gluten, are found in all forms of wheat (including durham, semolina, and spelt), rye, oats, barley, and related hybrids such as triticale and kamut.

The cause of Celiac Disease, also termed Gluten-Sensitive Enteropathy, or Celiac-Sprue, is unknown. Indications are that there is a genetic involvement in the regulation of the body's altered immune response to the gluten protein fractions.

Some factors associated with the onset of Celiac Disease include:

  ¤ severe emotional stress
¤ physical trauma
¤ a viral infection
¤ pregnancy
¤ surgery
¤ other environmental factors

The function of the small intestine is digestion and absorption of nutrients. When people with Celiac Disease consume gluten, the absorptive villi (hair-like projections) on the surface of the small intestine are damaged or destroyed. As a result, the body is unable to absorb basic nutrients - protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and in some cases, water and bile salts. If left untreated, the damage can be life threatening!

Other associated
immunological disorders:
Less commonly,
CD is also linked to:
¤ Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus
¤ Dermatitis Herpetiformis
¤ Thyroid Disease
¤ IgA Nephropathy
¤ Systemic Lupus Erythematosis
  ¤ Chronic Active Hepatitis
¤ Rheumatoid Arthritis
¤ Addison's Disease
¤ Scleroderma
¤ Myasthenia Gravis
¤ Sjrogen's Syndrome

CD is most commonly found in genetically susceptible Caucasians of Northern and Southern European ancestry (e.g. - Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Italy, Holland, etc.) but can also occur in other populations. Since many cases go undiagnosed or are asymptomatic for years, the US Celiac population is estimated to be APPROXIMATELY one in 150 people.

Diagnosis can be made from infancy through old age. Antibody tests are not diagnostic, but may be useful to identify those people who need a biopsy, who are consuming gluten. A small bowel biopsy is the Gold Standard for the diagnosis of CD. In the case of Dermatitis Herpetiformis, diagnosis is made by biopsy of the skin lesions. 80% of DH patients have small bowel sensitivity to gluten. An experienced CD/DH pathologist is helpful to establish these diagnoses. Diagnosis must be followed by close observation and monitoring of the clinical response to a gluten-free diet.

Symptoms are as varied as the nutritional deficiencies caused by the malabsorption. Symptoms may appear at any age. Infants, toddlers and children may exhibit growth failure and vomiting. The most common symptoms are:
abdominal cramping; intestinal gas; distention and bloating; chronic diarrhea or constipation - often with pale bulky stools; an intense blistering, itchy skin condition known as Dermatitis Herpetiformis, can also occur. Weight loss, depression & irritability, anemia, fatigue, weakness, and lack of energy.

There is no known cure for Celiac Disease. CD/DH can be controlled by the life-long adherence to a gluten-free diet. When the toxic proteins are removed from the diet, the bowel will heal and overall health improves.

Maintenance of a gluten-free diet is not as simple as it may seem. Labeling laws are imprecise. Unidentified starch, binders and fillers in medications and vitamin preparations need to be identified.

Gluten can be found in soups, salad dressings, processed foods, soy sauce, and even licorice. It is crucial to CAREFULLY read food and pharmaceutical labels for hidden sources of gluten proteins SUCH AS: hydrolyzed vegetable protein, modified food starch binders, fillers, excipients, extenders, undistilled grain vinegars & alcohols, malt & other natural flavorings