Celiac disease is a hereditary allergy to gluten that results in damage to the small intestine.Common symptoms include loose stools, fatigue, weight loss and generally poor health. However, symptoms can vary widely and include constipation, weight gain, and a skin condition called dermatitis herpetiformis.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is responsible for the springiness and stretchiness of bread. Without it, bread turns out heavy and dense.
How Is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
Celiac disease can be assessed by blood tests or by a biopsy of the small intestine performed during an upper endoscopy. The blood tests include the tissue transglutaminase antibody test and the newer deamidated gliadin antibody test. The endomysial antibody test is older and is not as senstive as the newer tests.
How Common Is Celiac Disease?
The occurrence of celiac disease is much higher than previously thought. A recent study put the prevalence at 1 in every 133 people, making it one the most common genetic diseases known. Once diagnosed, 1 in 22 first degree relatives, and 1 in 39 second degree relatives, is also diagnosed positive.
How Is Celiac Disease Different from a Gluten Intolerance?
Although celiac disease is a gluten allergy, it is only one form of gluten allergy. Many react to gluten and may have elevated serum antigliadin antibodies, but they do not have damage to the small intestine. These people have a negative biopsy of the small intestine, as well as negative antiendomysial antibody and tissue transglutaminase tests.
How Common Are Gluten Allergies?
Although no studies have been done on the prevalence of gluten intolerance, the prevalence of gluten allergies is certainly higher than that of celiac disease alone.
For a much more detailed examination of celiac disease, wheat allergies, and non-celiac gluten intolerance, please take a look at Dr.Wangen’s latest book: “Healthier Without Wheat“.
Dr. Stephen Wangen is the award winning author of two books on solving digestive disorders, and a nationally recognized speaker on IBS. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio. He was recently named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.