Celiac disease, also written coeliac disease, is a genetic autoimmune condition of the small intestine. The condition damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents proper absorption of nutrients from food. Some of the common symptoms of celiac disease include bloating, chronic diarrhoea, failure to thrive in infants or children, and fatigue. However, symptoms vary from person to person and a wide range of gastrointestinal symptoms may occur. Symptoms of celiac disease usually appear when gluten is ingested which is found in wheat, barley and rye. Without a modified diet a person with celiac disease will become malnourished, even if they consume the correct amount of food. Those who have family members with celiac disease are at greater risk and should be tested for celiac disease.
What causes celiac disease?
It is still unknown what exactly causes celiac disease, what is known is that the condition appears to be genetic and hereditary. Celiac disease is an allergic reaction to gluten. When a person with the condition consumes gluten it inflames and destroys the lining of the small intestine. It is the glaidin in gluten that causes the allergic reaction in someone with celiac disease. It is not clear why this substance becomes toxic in someone with celiac disease, but extensive medical research is being undertaken to determine the cause. An individual with celiac disease may not suffer the effects of the allergic reaction all of their lives. Celiac disease seems to be triggered by other events that cause the glaidin to become toxic. Some common triggers include surgery, pregnancy, and illness such as viral infections or severe emotional stress.
First degree relatives (parents, children and siblings) of those diagnosed with celiac disease have about a 10% chance to develop the disease. Research has also determined that people with celiac disease have certain genes that others do not. Statistics show that close to 1% of the population in the western world have celiac disease making it the most common food intolerance in the western world.