What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is an inherited autoimmune condition that causes damage to the small intestine, leading to difficulties with digestion and malabsorption of nutrients. When you have Celiac, your immune system reacts to the gluten protein by attacking the tissue of the small intestine.
This is considered an autoimmune condition because the immune system is attacking cells that are considered “self” (cells of the small intestine). This is compared to a gluten allergy (or any other allergy) in which the immune system is attacking the actual gluten protein because it sees the gluten as a foreign substance (even thought it is harmless), as if the gluten protein is a bacteria or a parasite.
Until gluten is completely eliminated from the diet, the immune system will continue attacking the small intestine, leading to inflammation and continuous destruction of the villi. The main symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas and bloating. However, Celiac Disease affects everyone differently and there are many more potential symptoms, including nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, and weight loss.
Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley. The treatment for Celiac Disease is to cut all gluten-containing foods out of your diet completely. However, there is often extensive gut damage when Celiac has gone undiagnosed/untreated for a number of years. Therefore, there is often much more involved in the treatment than just cutting gluten from the diet.
If you have any more questions about Celiac, I am happy to do my best to answer them. This Health Canada link also has a good description of the disease: