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Celiac Disease Information

  • Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder of the digestive system that occurs in genetically-predisposed individuals. It is characterised by damage or flattening to all or part of the villi lining the small intestine, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients. This damage is caused by eating anything with gluten (gliadin), a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley (as hordein). A small number of coeliacs (people with coeliac disease) may also react negatively to oats, possibly to the protein in them (avenin). Wheat grain varieties under the names triticale, spelt and kamut also contain gluten...
  • The diverse range of coeliac disease symptoms may make it difficult to diagnose. There are over two hundred symptoms that have been identified; not all people have the same symptoms; some people have no symptoms at all; and the symptoms may mimic other diseases. Comprehensive lists are available.[1] [2].

    Gastrointestinal or digestive problems occur in some coeliacs. It used to be thought that all coeliacs had diarrhea, weight loss, and nutritional deficiencies, but it is now known that only a small percentage have these symptoms. The wide range of digestive symptoms include everything from canker sores to diarrhea to constipation to nausea. Many of the symptoms may mimic other diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, reflux, or even Crohn's disease and coeliac may be misdiagnosed as any of these. Other symptoms that may occur are bulky, pale, offensive-smelling stools which may float in the toilet bowl, excess flatulence, infrequent, minor rectal bleeding, or persistent pain in the abdomen.

    Some symptoms appear to be caused because the villi are unable to absorb nutrients. Some examples are osteoporosis, damage to teeth enamel, anemia, fatigue, rapid or unexplained weight loss, overweight, failure to thrive or stunted growth in children, etc. Yet other symptoms appear to be emotional, such as depression and irritability. Dermatitis herpetiformis is an itchy blistering skin disease that occurs in some coeliacs and is considered to be an external manifestation of coeliac disease.

    While some untreated coeliacs may be symptom-free, they are still doing damage to their small intestines. Regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms, the disorder is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, miscarriage, certain types of intestinal cancers, and other auto-immune disorders.

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