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Celiac Disease

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a digestive disease that dam­ages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medi­cines, vitamins, and lip balms. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi—the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining 
the small intestine. Villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food one eats.
Celiac disease is both a disease of malabsorption—meaning nutrients are not absorbed properly—and an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. Celiac disease is also known as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy.
Celiac disease is genetic, meaning it runs in families. Sometimes the disease is trig­gered—or becomes active for the first time—after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress.

What are the symptoms of celiac disease? 

Symptoms of celiac disease vary from per­son to person. Symptoms may occur in the digestive system or in other parts of the body. Digestive symptoms are more common in infants and young children and may include:
abdominal bloating and pain 
chronic diarrhea 
pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool 
weight loss 

Irritability is another common symptom in children. Malabsorption of nutrients during the years when nutrition is critical to a child’s normal growth and development can result in other problems such as failure to thrive in infants, delayed growth and short stature, delayed puberty, and dental enamel defects of the permanent teeth.
Adults are less likely to have digestive symp­toms and may instead have one or more of the following: 
unexplained iron-defi ciency 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 
an itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis 

People with celiac disease may have no symp­toms but can still develop complications of the disease over time. Long-term complica­tions include malnutrition—which can lead to anemia, osteoporosis, and miscarriage, among other problems—liver diseases, and cancers of the intestine. 


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