Celiac disease is a condition brought about due to the bodies immune system recognizing a wheat protein called gluten as being foreign. This recognition results in an inflammatory process in the small intestine. This inflammation results in damage to the villi that line the small intestine. Villi are finger-like projections of tissue that allow for maximal absorption of nutrients. Villi are analogous to the loops on a bath towel that allow it to absorb water. When the villi are damaged, the body cannot absorb nutrients as well.
Celiac disease can affect children and adults. Symptoms can occur irregularly. Classic symptoms are gas, bloating and loose stool or diarrhea. Patients may have difficulty gaining weight. Celiac disease can result in deficiencies of iron, folate,m and calcium. Osteoporosis and infertility in women can be seen. Celiac disease is associated with an unusual type of lymphoma of the small intestine.
The treatment for celiac disease is centered on a gluten free diet. Most patients respond well to this diet and the small intestine can heal itself with the avoidance of gluten.