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Medical Facts About Gluten and Celiac Disease

What is Celiac Disease?

Why is it that some people need to make sure there is no gluten in their foods?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune response in the small intestine to ingested gluten. What is gluten?

Gluten. noun

1. The mixture of proteins, including gliadins and glutelins, found in wheat grains, which are not soluble in water and which give wheat dough its elastic texture.

2. Any of the prolamins found in cereal grains, especially the prolamins in wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats that cause digestive disorders such as celiac disease.
[French, from Latin gluten, glue.]


Dr. Julie Snyder Block MD - Pediatrician

The gluten protein of particular grains are ingested (eaten) and absorbed in the small intestines. In people with celiac disease, the immune system views the gluten as an intruder, consequently an inflammatory response that damages tissue begins. Normally, the cells of the small intestines are lined with millions of villi, finger-like projections, that produce enzymes and absorb nutrients. In the inflammatory response that occurs in individuals with celiac disease, the villi are attacked, and they change shape, inadequately producing enzymes and absorbing fewer nutrients.

The classic symptoms of Celiac Disease occur due to the inflammatory response in the intestines and the altered absorption due to the altered villi. The classic symptoms include flatulence, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain. Over time, individuals may have poor growth, vitamin deficiencies, weight loss, anemia, skin abnormalities, fatigue, headache, menstrual abnormalities and infertility. Conditions associated with Celiac Disease include diabetes, neurologic disorders and autoimmune thyroid diseases.

Gluten is not only present in the grains listed in the prior definition, but also as a thickening agent and filler in products including ketchup, ice cream and medications. Foods in a kitchen or restaurant can get contaminated by being processed on the same machinery as foods with gluten, or stirred or strained with gluten-touched utensils. Even a trace ingestion of gluten can set off the inflammatory cycle, therefore making a person have their symptoms of Celiac Disease. Now it is understandable why a person with Celiac Disease is particular about the foods ordered in a restaurant.

Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms that may be consistent with Celiac Disease. A diagnosis is made with blood tests and a small bowel biopsy.

For additional information go to http://medschool.umaryland.edu/celiac/faq.asp.


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