Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and damage to the small intestine when a person consumes gluten-containing food.
Gluten, a term we hear about every day, is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When an individual who is prone to celiac disease ingests gluten, the body mounts an immune response directed at the small intestine.
The result is inflammation and injury to the villi extremely tiny, finger-like projections in the lining of the small intestine that increase the surface area and promote absorption of nutrients. The damage to villi affects nutrient absorption and leads to a multitude of symptoms.
Who Develops Celiac Disease?
It seems like we can’t go to any restaurant or supermarket without seeing or hearing the term “gluten-free.” The phrase is synonymous now with healthy eating. But who really needs to go gluten-free? It’s those who have been diagnosed with celiac disease.
Celiac disease has been reported in children of all ethnicities, though the disease is relatively more common in those with Caucasian roots. It is believed about a third of the Caucasian population have genes that increase susceptibility to celiac disease. However, only 3 percent of those actually develop the condition.
An estimated 1 out of 100 people have celiac disease in the U.S. To develop the condition, one needs to have the genetic susceptibility, exposure to gluten and variations in the immune system that are controlled by other secondary susceptibility genes. In other words, it has to be the “perfect storm” scenario.
Celiac disease also has a hereditary component, which puts children who have first-degree relatives, such as parents or siblings, with celiac disease at higher risk for developing the disease.
Read More: Inside Look at Celiac Disease in Children