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Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an abnormal immune system reaction to gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. When patients have this condition, eating gluten causes their immune system to trigger a response in the small intestine, which produces many unpleasant symptoms. Over time, these reactions damage the small intestine lining and can prevent it from absorbing vital nutrients properly.

Celiac disease can often be confused with those who are gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant. Those who suffer from gluten intolerance or sensitivity experience many of the symptoms of the condition, but their small intestine does not suffer from the same damage as celiacs, and they do not test positive for the antibodies that generally indicate celiac disease.

There is no cure currently, but symptoms can usually be managed or even mitigated by eliminating gluten from the diet. Once the symptoms are eased, the intestine will then begin to heal.


Symptoms of celiac disease are unique to the individual and vary significantly between adults and children. For adults, the most common symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Acid reflux
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating and gas

In addition to the standard symptoms listed above, more than half of adults with celiac disease also experience one or more symptoms unrelated to the digestive tract:

  • Anemia from iron deficiency
  • Osteoporosis
  • Itchy, blistering skin rashes
  • Damage to teeth
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Headache

Children most often experience:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Irritability
  • Delayed puberty
  • Children under the age of two may also experience muscle wasting or swollen belly

As mentioned above, there is no current cure, but symptoms can frequently be assuaged by some reasonably significant diet changes. Avoiding gluten will help manage the effects of the condition. However, a physician should conduct a blood test to be certain that it is celiac disease before the following are eliminated from a patient’s diet:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Durum
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Malt
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Triticale

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