Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.
When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.
Celiac disease is hereditary, meaning that it runs in families. People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease.
Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods or medicines that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems.
Long-term health conditions can include:
- Early onset osteoporosis or osteopenia
- Infertility and miscarriage
- Central and peripheral nervous system disorders
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Gallbladder malfunction
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (intestinal and extra-intestinal, T- and B-call types)
- Esophageal carcinoma
- Papillary thyroid cancer
- Additional autoimmune diseases
Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease is lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. People living gluten-free must avoid foods with wheat, rye and barley, such as bread and beer.
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Source: https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/ & https://celiac.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/CDF_HowMuchYouKnow_8.5x11_c2-003-1.pdf