Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is a genetic disorder that is thought to affect about 2 million people in the United States, or slightly less than 1% of the population1. The disease mostly affects those of European descent and occurs more rarely in African-American and Asian populations. Those affected suffer damage to their intestinal villi because the amino acids typically found in wheat; rye and barley are toxic to them2.
Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose as symptoms can vary. Symptoms range from mild weakness and bone pain to more disturbing presentations such as diarrhea, weight loss and malnutrition2. If a person with the disorder continues to eat gluten, studies have shown that his or her chances of gastrointestinal cancer increase more than 40 times that of the normal population3! Therefore it's important that the disease is properly diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Testing is fairly simple and usually involves screening the patient's blood for antigliadin (AGA) and endomysium antibodies (EmA). Sometimes a doctor will want to perform a biopsy on the intestines as this is thought to be the most accurate way to diagnose the disease.
An adherence to a gluten-free diet can prevent almost all complications caused by celiac disease2. A gluten-free diet avoids all products that contain wheat, rye, barley or any of their derivatives. This can seem a difficult task, as there are often sources of gluten hidden in the ingredients of many processed foods. That is why we encourage consumers to look for "gluten-free" icons or statements on food packaging, which indicate that the provider has tested the marked item for gluten and found none to be present. For additional reading, we suggest:
Or see our gluten-free link page at:
1. Gastroenterology, April, 2005 "Epidemiology of celiac disease: What are the prevalence, incidence, and progression of celiac disease?" By Marian Rewers, M.D., Ph.D.
2. New England Journal of Medicine, May 2, 1996, Vol. 334, Number 18, "The Many Faces of Celiac Disease" by Charles H. Halsted, M.D.
3. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. Vol. 89, No. 8, pages S2 - S13, 1994"Celiac Disease and Other Nutrient Related Injuries to the Gastrointestinal Tract" By Goggins, et. Al.
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