Celiac disease is a chronic digestive disorder caused by eating foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, oats, rye and barley. Genetics are also a factor- those who are diagnosed with celiac disease often have family members who also have the disease. In patients with celiac disease the small intestine becomes inflamed when gluten is consumed because of the immune system’s reaction against the protein. The inflammation doesn’t permit a high rate of nutrient absorption, so patients don’t get the full nutritional benefit of the foods they eat.
Common symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating and gas, diarrhea and weigh loss. Anemia (low blood count) can also occur. Eating a gluten-free diet is an essential treatment for celiac disease. Dieticians can help educate patients on foods that often contain gluten.