What is Celiac Disease? I’ve had a gluten sensitivity all my life, but I didn’t learn about Celiac Disease until a friend was diagnosed.
I spent a lot of time wading through dozens of resources to learn about it. I’ve listed the best resources here. And don’t miss the latest Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac News from around the world.
Since there are so many conflicting views, I’ve pulled together this summary to help get you started.
So what is Celiac Disease? It’s a serious type of gluten sensitivity that is actually an autoimmune disease. There are many possible symptoms that vary from person to person.
The symptoms may come and go, but the disease does not. In fact, all symptoms may completely disappear if gluten is avoided, but will likely show up again if gluten is reintroduced.
The disease is triggered by ingesting gluten, but only IF:
What is Celiac Disease? is a question that is being asked a lot these days. This is due to more and more exposure on TV, from celebrities like Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and in the press. If you are asking it, it’s probably because you or someone you know or care for is sick or in pain and you want answers. I hope I can answer your questions.
Celiac is sometimes spelled coeliac, an older spelling still used outside North America. It’s also called celiac sprue, sprue, gluten-sensitive enteropathy, or nontropical sprue. |
You may also hear it called "celiacs disease" or just "celiacs". This latter term often refers to people that have Celiac Disease.
An autoimmune disease is a disease where the body’s natural defense system–the immune system that keeps us well by attacking bacteria and other unwanted invaders–mistakes the body’s own cells for invaders and attacks them.
In the case of Celiac Disease, the immune system attacks the wall of the small intestine when it detects gluten, instead of attacking the indigestible gluten proteins.
The resulting damage to the intestine limits its ability to absorb nutrients. This damage, combined with environmental, health and inherited issues that are different from person to person, results in a wide range of possible symptoms.
So the question “What is Celiac Disease?” becomes “What is Celiac Disease for me?”, or for my child or my friend?
Doctors and scientists are finding that Celiac Disease is a much more complicated disease than they thought, and sometimes it’s hard to get an accurate diagnosis.
As of now there is no single Celiac Disease test, other than an expensive small intestine biopsy, and even that sometimes turns up falsely negative. So celiac testing usually starts with cheaper tests to prescreen for the likelihood of the disease. These tests look for genetic susceptibility and the presence of antibodies. If these are found the biopsy is the next step.
Currently the only treatment for Celiac Disease is to eliminate gluten from your diet, as well as other sources of hidden gluten, completely.
But despite the mantra you may hear over and over that the only treatment for Celiac Disease is a “lifelong” gluten free diet, there are some possible treatments that are actually in human trials.
So you never know...
For more information there’s an interesting article in Scientific American. Researcher Alessio Fasano describes the three things he believes must be present for Celiac Disease to be triggered–ingesting gluten, inheriting the genes that make you susceptible, and having what he calls a “leaky gut” that he further describes. He also discusses possible treatments that he and others have in the works.
Definitely worth reading. I was able to check it out of my local library... (Surprises from Celiac Disease, Scientific American, August 2009, p54-61.) Here’s part of the article at the Scientific American website, where you can purchase it if you can’t get it in the library. The comments there are worth reading, too.
Celiac Disease was recognized as far back as the First Century A.D., when it was referred to as koiliakos, which came from koelia, Greek for abdomen (hence the spelling you sometimes see: “coeliac”)
But some believe the disease must have been around since the beginning of civilization. Since grain, in the form of bread and beer, was such a huge part of the diet after people started growing food, some people think that there must have been people who couldn’t tolerate it.
But there’s no way to know for sure, without records, because it’s also possible that other health conditions that contribute to Celiac Disease developed later on.
Share Your Celiac Disease Symptoms With Us!Have you been diagnosed with Celiac Disease? Tell us your celiac symptoms so we can help increase awareness of this serious disease!
Celiac Disease and its many possible symptoms are misunderstood by many people, even doctors and scientists. That sometimes makes it difficult to diagnose, or even to be recognized as a possibility.
Celiac Disease depends on three factors before it can affect someone: gluten in the diet, inherited genes that can cause the immune system to go haywire when gluten is present, and conditions in the body that contribute to that happening.
These conditions are not well understood, are controversial, and are the basis of potential future treatments. Some treatments are actually in human trials.
Hopefully now when you hear the question “What is Celiac Disease?” you will be able to give an answer that makes sense, and help clear up some of the misconceptions that are going around.