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Celiac disease is a specific digestive disease that not only damages the small intestine, but also interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.

The most important characteristic of this condition is that people who have celiac disease cannot tolerate a protein called gluten. This protein can be found in wheat, rye, and barley. This protein can also be found in products such as stamp and envelope adhesive, medicines, and vitamins. Celiac disease is considered an autoimmune disorder although some experts also classify it as a disease of malabsorption.

Mechanism of intestinal destruction

When people with celiac disease eat food containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. It means that the fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine called villi are damaged or destroyed. Villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, regardless of the quantity of food eaten. Celiac disease is also known as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy.

Possible causes of Celiac disease

The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown. However it is known that Celiac disease is a genetic disease, which means that it runs in families. If someone in your immediate family has it, chances are 10 to 20 percent that you may have it too. Sometimes the disease is triggered after:

  • surgery,
  • pregnancy
  • childbirth
  • viral infection
  • severe emotional stress

Other risk factors for developing this condition are

  • Lupus erythematosus
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease

Incidence

Celiac disease may be much more common in the United States than previously believed.
One study conducted on more than 13,000 people, found that one in 133 participants had the disease.  The number of patients is rising because the previous under diagnosis of celiac disease may be because the disorder resembles several other conditions that can cause malabsorption.

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