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Celiac disease is a specific digestive disease that is characterized by severe damage in the small intestine and poor absorption of nutrients from food.

People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate a protein called gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley. Although gluten is mainly found in foods, it can also be found in other products we use every day such as stamps and envelope adhesive, medicines, and vitamins.

The big problem is that the decreased absorption of nutrients can cause vitamin deficiencies that can deprive a patient’s brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment, which can lead to other illnesses. This disease is also called celiac sprue, nontropical sprue and gluten-sensitive enteropathy.

Mechanism and causes

The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown but the experts agree that it is often inherited. If someone in your immediate family has it, there is a 10 to 20 percent chance that you have it too. About 3 to 8 percent of people with type 1 diabetes will have biopsy-confirmed celiac disease as well as 5 to 10 percent of people with Down syndrome.

It can occur at any age, although symptoms don't appear until gluten is introduced into the diet.

Many times, for unclear reasons, the disease emerges after some form of trauma such as:

  • an infection,
  • a physical injury,
  • pregnancy,
  • severe stress or
  • surgery

The disease is considered to have immunological nature. The main characteristic is that, when people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. This results in forming of tiny lesions to the small, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine called villi. These formations normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Because the body's own immune system causes the damage, celiac disease is considered an autoimmune disorder.

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