Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
In people with celiac disease, inflammation occurs in the small intestinal
mucosa when it is exposed to gluten in the diet. Celiac disease is thought to be
an autoimmune disorder and may have a familial or genetic component. The
symptoms usually involve the digestive system causing abdominal discomfort,
bloating, nausea, and loose bowel movements. However, there is a wide spectrum of
symptoms that may occur. Because the intestine becomes inflamed, it may also
lose its ability to absorb nutrients from the diet, leading to other associated
Celiac disease is also known by other names including celiac sprue,
non-tropical sprue, and gluten enteropathy.
What causes celiac disease?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. In some people who are
exposed to gluten in their diet, an enzyme called tissue transglutaminase
changes the gluten into a chemical that causes an immune response, leading to
inflammation of the lining of the small intestine. The normal villi that make up
the lining of the intestine are blunted and destroyed, preventing the normal
absorption of nutrients from the diet.
This malabsorption of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients may lead to
damage to other organs in the body, such as the liver, bone, and brain' that depend
on those nutrients to function normally. In children, the lack of effective
nutrition because of malnutrition can lead to abnormal growth and development.
There seems to be a genetic predisposition to developing celiac disease,
however not all people with a family history of celiac disease develop the
condition. There is another reason, yet unknown, why the autoimmune response
Anyone who has had to follow a gluten-free diet has seen a huge change in the availability of these foods. What was once only found in specialty stores and known by very few people has now become a very popular diet trend. Products and restaurants are proudly displaying their gluten-free status. Many now see this as the latest "diet fad."