Celiac disease

The gluten connection

Celiac disease -- also called gluten-sensitive enteropathy -- is an inherited condition triggered by eating cereal grains that contain gluten. If your child has celiac disease, his or her immune system has a negative reaction to this gluten, causing damage to the inner lining of the small bowel. This reduces a person's ability to absorb nutrients including iron, folate, calcium, Vitamin D, protein, fat and carbohydrates. This can result in chronic poor health, anemia, osteoporosis, and certain cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

Grains with gluten include different species of barley, oats, rye, triticale, and wheat (e.g., durum, spelt, kamut), or a hybridized strain of any of these cereals.

Fast facts

Celiac disease affects nearly one percent of the population. The only treatment is to maintain a strict gluten-free diet. A person should not go onto a gluten-free diet until a blood test and biopsy have been completed, to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

Symptoms of celiac disease

Celiac disease can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms (and their severity) can be very different from one person to the next. Typically in infants and children, celiac disease causes diarrhea and abnormal stretching of the abdomen. Other symptoms can be short stature, anemia (weakness or low stamina), defects in teething, failure to thrive or developmental delays.

Celiac disease is diagnosed through a combination of blood tests, small-bowel biopsy and recovery from symptoms with a gluten-free diet.

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