Celiac Disease

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is also commonly known as gluten intolerance or nontropical sprue. With celiac disease, the body’s immune system reacts inappropriately to gliadin, a gluten protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. This allergic reaction damages the villi, tiny projections in the mucus lining of the small intestine that facilitate nutrient absorption by increasing the absorptive area of the intestinal wall (approximately the surface area of a tennis court).

Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder that is estimated to affect 1 in 133 people. Those with celiac disease who continue to eat foods that contain gluten increase their chances of gastrointestinal cancer by 40 to 100 times that of the normal population. Celiac disease is currently incurable, and the only treatment for celiac disease is strict adherence to a 100% gluten-free diet for life. This poses a challenge for celiac disease sufferers because many of today’s processed foods contain at least one or more grains that contain gluten.

Avoiding dietary gluten and taking vitamin and mineral supplements to offset nutritional deficiencies can eradicate all the complications of this disease. In small children, celiac disease can be fatal if not diagnosed promptly, primarily due to the severe malnutrition that results from the disease.

Refractory celiac disease is a rare derivation of celiac disease in which the symptoms of celiac disease and the loss of villi do not improve, despite many months of a strict gluten-free diet. Refractory celiac disease may also be categorized as a malignant cancer.

Common Symptoms

You may have celiac disease if you are experiencing any of these symptoms:
  • Abdominal cramping, intestinal gas, distention and bloating
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation (or both)
  • Unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
  • Unusual weight loss or weight gain
  • Unexplained nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition
  • Dental enamel defects
  • Bone or joint pain, weakened bones
  • Fatigue, weakness and lack of energy
  • Infertility - male/female
  • Depression
  • Ulcers
  • Childhood growth retardation and stunted stature as an adult
  • Painful mouth sores
  • Fatty stool – stools that have abnormally high levels of fat
  • Delayed blood clotting and excessive bleeding
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) – a skin disorder characterized by blistering, intensely itchy skin frequently found on the face, elbows, knees and buttocks


The following tests and procedures may help in obtaining a diagnosis of celiac disease:
  • Online self-assessments – Self-assessments, such as the candidiasis self-assessment and the magnesium assessment, can help you determine some of the root cause(s) of your chronic conditions.
  • Stool sample to check for fatty stool
  • Small intestinal biopsy – considered the most accurate test for celiac disease. A long, flexible biopsy instrument is passed through the small intestine to obtain samples of the intestinal lining of the duodenum. The biopsy is evaluated for loss of villi, tiny protusions that line the small intestine and increase the surface area for maximum absorption of nutrients.
  • Specific antibody tests for celiac disease – Antibodies are proteins that are produced by the immune system to fight viruses, bacteria, and other organisms that infect the body. In the case of celiac disease, the body inappropriately produces antibodies against gluten, which can be detected through antibody testing, such as endomysial antibodies, anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies, and anti-gliadin antibodies.