Celiac disease is an allergy to dietary gluten. It affects individuals who are genetically predisposed to the allergy and differs from gluten sensitivity, as celiac disease elicits within the body a very defined response to gluten. 
When gluten enters the small intestine in an individual with celiac disease, the body initiates an immune response. The cause of the response has been identified as gliadin, one of two proteins that comprise gluten. The autoimmune response gliadin triggers creates intestinal redness and irritation.
Over time, the mucosal layer of the intestine is reduced. This layer protects the intestinal wall from toxins — without this, the chance of toxins crossing from the intestine into the blood stream increases. This layer also facilitates the absorption of nutrition into the body. Malnourishment coupled with intestinal irritation is an extremely unpleasant combination.
Left unaddressed, celiac disease can cause serious complications. What’s the best way to address celiac disease? Avoid gluten. A gluten-free diet can prevent the allergic response and has been observed to reverse many of the problems associated with celiac disease.
Causes of Celiac Disease
Celiac disease results from a genetically-induced allergy. Foods that contain gluten trigger the immune response and include cereal grains such as wheat, rye and barley contain gluten. Be aware that many processed foods contain gluten to enhance flavoring and protein content.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Symptoms of celiac disease can be identified in one of two categories. The first consist of the intestinal symptoms — bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, steathorrea, flatulence and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The second category of symptoms consists of health and medical complications resulting from regular gluten consumption. Common complications associated with celiac disease include dermatitis herpatiformis, osteoporosis, weight loss and fatigue. Recent research has associated gluten consumption to additional chronic, and in some cases very serious, medical conditions.
Dangers of Celiac Disease
Individuals with celiac disease who continue to consume gluten regularly put themselves at risk of more serious conditions. Some of these more serious conditions include:
1. Brain Injury
Studies have found individuals suffering from Celiac Disease present brain abnormalities and damage to the nervous system.  Lesions similar to those found on patients with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) have even been observed. 
2. Chronic Headaches
Headaches and migraines can occur with regular frequency as a result of damage to, and the malfunctioning of, the nervous system. 
Damage to the brain and nervous system resulting from autoimmune response to gluten consumption can manifest in the form of seizures. 
Male children who develop with Celiac Disease have been found to attain a shorter stature than their peers. There is good news. For boys who have Celiac Disease that adhere to a gluten-free diet, ‘catch-up’ growth can occur. 
Celiac Disease has been associated with other serious problem, including hearing problems, inadequate nutrient absorption and early onset cardio vascular disease.   Ultimately, if celiac disease is even suspected, a medical evaluation should be sought.
What Can Be Done?
As celiac disease is a gluten allergy, the easiest solution is to adopt a gluten free diet. Research shows that conditions of celiac disease are potentially reversible once a gluten free diet is adopted. Some people have also found additional support by taking probiotics to support their digestive system.
Has celiac disease affected you or someone you know? Please leave a comment below and share your experience with us.
- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
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