by Phillips Clinic on 05/29/22
Celiac disease is a digestive condition triggered by eating gluten, a protein primarily found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye. People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten have an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients.
Celiac symptoms can include:
Dermatitis herpetiformis, an itchy, blistering skin rash
Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients that can occur with celiac disease can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive the brain, nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of needed nourishment.
Normally, your small intestine is lined with tiny, hair-like projections called villi. Villi work to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food you eat. Celiac disease damages and flattens the villi.
Without fully working villi, the inner surface of the small intestine becomes flat, and the body is unable to absorb nutrients necessary for health and growth. Instead, nutrients such as fat, protein, vitamins and minerals are eliminated without being absorbed.
The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown, doctors have discovered that it often runs in families. If someone in the family has been diagnosed with celiac disease, there may be an increased risk of the disease. Celiac disease is also common in people who have:
Type 1 diabetes
Autoimmune thyroid disease
Untreated Celiac Disease Can Lead To:
Malnutrition. Untreated celiac disease can lead to malabsorption, which in turn can lead to malnutrition. Because nutrients are lost rather than absorbed in the bloodstream, malabsorption can cause a deficiency in vitamins and minerals, vitamin D, folate and iron, resulting in anemia and weight loss.
Loss of calcium and bone density.
With continued loss of fat, calcium and vitamin D may be lost This may result in loss of bone density (osteoporosis), a condition that leaves bones fragile and prone to fracture.
Lactose intolerance. Because of damage to your small intestine from gluten, foods that don't contain gluten also may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. Some people with celiac disease aren't able to tolerate milk sugar (lactose) found in dairy products.
Cancer. People with celiac disease who don't maintain a gluten-free diet also have a greater chance of getting one of several forms of cancer, including intestinal lymphoma and bowel cancer.
Neurological complications. Celiac disease has also been associated with disorders of the nervous system, including seizures and nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy).
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