Celiac Disease: Causes, Effects, Types, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment and Precautions

Also known as celiac disease, it is a digestive disorder caused by an abnormal immune reaction to gluten.

Gluten is a protein found in foods made with wheat, barley and rye. It is also found in oats that has been made in processing plants that handle other grains. Gluten can even be found in some medications, vitamins and lipsticks.

Gluten intolerance, also known as gluten sensitivity , is characterized by the body’s inability to digest or break down gluten. Some people with intolerance have a slight sensitivity, while others have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder.

In celiac disease, the immune response to gluten creates toxins that destroy the villi. The villi are small, finger-shaped protrusions within the small intestine.

When the villi are damaged, the body can not absorb nutrients from the food. This can lead to malnutrition and other serious health complications, including permanent intestinal damage.

People with celiac disease should eliminate all forms of gluten from their diet. This includes most bread products, baked goods, beer and foods where gluten can be used as a stabilizing ingredient.


Research suggests that celiac disease only happens to individuals who have particular genes. These genes are common and are carried by approximately one third of the population.

People should also eat foods that contain gluten to get celiac disease. Researchers do not know exactly what triggers celiac disease in people at risk who eat gluten over a long period of time.

Sometimes the disease occurs in families. Between 10 and 20 percent of close relatives of people with celiac disease are also affected.

Your chances of developing disease increase when you have changes in your genes or variants. Certain genetic variants and other factors, such as things in their environment, can cause celiac disease.

Effects of Celiac disease

In some people who are exposed to gluten in their diet, an enzyme called tissue transglutaminase changes 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 broken and destroyed, which prevents the normal absorption of nutrients from the diet.

This malabsorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can cause damage to other organs of the body, such as the liver, bones and brain, which depend on these nutrients to function normally.

In children, the lack of effective nutrition due to malnutrition can lead to abnormal growth and development.

There seems to be a genetic predisposition to develop celiac disease, however, not all people with a family history of celiac disease develop this condition. There is another reason, still unknown, why the autoimmune response occurs.

In addition to family history, celiac disease appears to be more common in people with type 1 diabetes, microscopic colitis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and autoimmune thyroid disease.


  • Silent
  • Latent.
  • Typical
  • Atypical
  • No Responsive.

Silent: silent celiac disease exists if you do not experience any known symptoms of celiac disease but test positive for it.

This is usually discovered by a doctor who is examining you for another condition and discovers that you are at risk for celiac disease (family history, perhaps).

Latent: it is when at present the test is negative for celiac disease, but eventually develops it. Latent celiac disease is almost always diagnosed retrospectively.

Typical: produces all the symptoms associated with gluten intolerance and celiac disease: gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Basically, it is where celiac disease manifests itself clearly along your intestinal tract with your most well-known symptoms.

Atypical: occurs when patients test positive for celiac disease but do not have obvious gastrointestinal symptoms. In contrast, when someone has an atypical celiac disease, they tend to develop extra-intestinal symptoms, which means that they develop symptoms beyond their intestines.

This includes migraines , ataxia , neuropathy, joint pain and more. Some researchers even believe that celiac disease may manifest neurological symptoms more frequently than gastrointestinal symptoms.

Non-receptive: non-receptive celiac disease is ugly when celiac disease does not respond to a gluten-free diet.

In the past, patients were often diagnosed with refractory celiac disease, which is a very serious condition with potentially dangerous long-term consequences.

Recently, however, many cases of non-receptive celiac disease may have been the result of cross-contamination of gluten-free grains with gluten products.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Most people with celiac disease have one or more symptoms. However, some people with the disease may not have symptoms or feel sick.

Sometimes, health problems such as surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, bacterial gastroenteritis , a viral infection or severe mental stress can trigger effects.

The symptoms of celiac disease usually involve the intestines and the digestive system, but they can also affect other parts of the body. Children and adults tend to have a different set of symptoms.

Symptoms of celiac disease in children:

Children may feel tired and irritable. Other common symptoms include:

  • Weightloss.
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal distension.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Persistent diarrhea or constipation
  • Pale, greasy and malodorous stools.

Symptoms  of celiac disease in  adults:

  • Iron deficiency anemia.
  • Joint pain and stiffness.
  • Weak and fragile bones.
  • Fatigue.
  • Convulsions
  • Skin disorders.
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
  • Dental discoloration or loss of enamel.
  • Pale sores inside the mouth.
  • Irregular menstrual periods.
  • Infertility and miscarriage.

Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is another common symptom of celiac disease. DH is a rash with intense itching composed of lumps and blisters.

It can develop on the elbows, buttocks and knees. DH affects approximately 15 to 25 percent of people with celiac disease. Those who experience DH usually do not have digestive symptoms.

It is important to keep in mind that symptoms may vary from person to person depending on several factors, which include:

  • The amount of time someone was breastfed when he was a baby.
  • The age when someone started eating gluten.
  • The amount of gluten that someone eats.
  • The severity of intestinal damage.

Some people with celiac disease have no symptoms. However, they can still develop long-term complications as a result of their illness.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately if you suspect that you or someone in your family has celiac disease. When the diagnosis and treatment are delayed, complications may be more likely to occur.

How common is celiac disease?

According to statistics 1 of every 141 Americans has celiac disease, however, most do not know.

Who is more likely to develop celiac disease?

Although celiac disease affects children and adults in all parts of the world, the disease is more common in Caucasians and is more often diagnosed in women.

You are more likely to develop celiac disease if someone in your family has the disease. It is also more common among people with other diseases such as Down syndrome, Turner syndrome and type 1 diabetes.

What other health problems do people with celiac disease have?

If you have celiac disease, you may also be at risk for the following conditions:

  • Addison’s disease
  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis .
  • Diabetes type 1.

Risk factor’s

Who is at risk for celiac disease? Is it hereditary?

Celiac disease occurs in families. According to the University of Chicago Medical Center, people have a 1 in 22 chance of developing celiac disease if their father or brother has the disease.

People who have other autoimmune diseases and certain genetic disorders are also more likely to have celiac disease. Some conditions associated with celiac disease include:

  • The lupus .
  • The rheumatoid arthritis .
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Thyroid disease.
  • Autoimmune liver disease.
  • Addison’s disease
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Down syndrome.
  • The Turner syndrome.
  • Lactose intolerance.
  • Have intestinal cancer.
  • Intestinal lymphoma

How is celiac disease diagnosed?

The diagnosis begins with a physical examination and a medical history. Doctors will also perform several tests to help confirm a diagnosis.

People with celiac disease often have high levels of anti-endomysial (EMA) and anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTGA) antibodies. These can be detected with blood tests.

The tests are more reliable when they are done while the gluten is still in the diet.

Common blood tests include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC).
  • Liver function tests.
  • The cholesterol test.
  • The alkaline phosphatase level test.
  • The serum albumin test.

In people with DH, a skin biopsy can also help doctors diagnose celiac disease. During a skin biopsy, the doctor will remove small pieces of tissue from the skin to be examined under a microscope.

If the skin biopsy and blood test results indicate celiac disease, an internal biopsy may not be necessary.

In cases where the results of blood tests or skin biopsy are inconclusive, upper endoscopy may be used to detect celiac disease.

During upper endoscopy, a thin tube called an endoscope is passed through the mouth and into the small intestine. A small camera connected to the endoscope allows the doctor to examine the intestines and check for villus damage.

The doctor may also perform an intestinal biopsy , which involves removing a tissue sample from the intestines for analysis.

Which is the treatment?

The only way to treat celiac disease is to permanently eliminate gluten from the diet. This allows the intestinal villi to heal and begin to absorb nutrients properly.

Your doctor will teach you how to avoid gluten while following a nutritious and healthy diet. They will also give you instructions on how to read food and product labels so you can identify any ingredient that contains gluten.

Symptoms can improve after a few days of eliminating gluten from the diet. However, you should not stop eating gluten until a diagnosis is made. The premature elimination of gluten can interfere with the results of the test and lead to an inaccurate diagnosis.

Food precautions to take into account

Maintaining a gluten-free diet is not easy. Fortunately, many companies are now manufacturing gluten-free products, which can be found at several grocery stores and specialty food stores. The labels on these products say “gluten free”.

If you have celiac disease, it is important to know what foods are safe. Here is a series of dietary guidelines that can help you determine what to eat and what to avoid.

Avoid the following ingredients:

  • Wheat.
  • Spelled
  • Rye.
  • Barley.
  • Flour.
  • Harina de Graham.
  • Semolina.

And avoid the following (unless the label says it does not contain gluten):

  • Beer
  • Bread.
  • Cakes and cakes
  • Candy.
  • Cereals.
  • Biscuits.
  • Chopsticks
  • Salsas.
  • Avena.
  • Pastas.
  • Processed sausages, sausages and sausages.
  • Salad dressings.
  • Sauces (includes soy sauce).
  • Self-basting poultry.
  • Soups

You can eat these gluten-free grains and starches:

  • Alforfón
  • Corn.
  • Amaranth.
  • Roaring
  • Cornmeal.
  • Flour made of rice, soybeans, corn, potatoes or beans.
  • Pure corn tortillas.
  • Quinoa.
  • Rice.
  • Tapioca.

Healthy and gluten-free foods include:

  • Fresh meats, fish and poultry that have not been breaded, covered or marinated.
  • Fruit.
  • The majority of dairy products.
  • Starchy vegetables such as peas, potatoes, including sweet potatoes and corn.
  • Rice, beans and lentils.
  • Vegetables.
  • Wine, distilled spirits, ciders and liqueurs.

Your symptoms should improve within days or weeks after making these dietary adjustments. In children, the bowel usually heals between three and six months. But intestinal healing can take several years in adults.

Once the bowel has healed completely, the body can absorb nutrients properly.

Important considerations in a Gluten-free diet

Is the oatmeal safe?

In the past, doctors and dietitians discouraged oatmeal if they had celiac disease.

Evidence suggests that most people with the disease can ingest moderate amounts of oats, as long as they do not come into contact with wheat gluten during processing.

You should talk with your health care team about whether you should include oats in your diet.

When you buy and go out to eat, remember:

  • Read food labels, especially those of canned, frozen and processed foods.
  • Identify foods labeled “gluten free”; By law, these foods must contain less than 20 parts per million, well below the threshold to cause problems in the vast majority of patients with celiac disease.
  • Ask restaurant servers and chefs about how they prepare food and what’s in it.
  • Find out if there is a gluten-free menu available.
  • Ask a dinner or party host about gluten-free options before attending a social gathering.


Foods labeled as gluten-free tend to cost more than the same foods that have gluten. You may find that naturally gluten-free foods are less expensive. With practice, looking for gluten can become second nature.

If you have just been diagnosed with celiac disease, you and your family members may find support groups useful as you adjust to a new approach to eating.

Is a gluten-free diet safe if I do not have celiac disease?

In recent years, more people without celiac disease have adopted a gluten-free diet, since they believe that avoiding gluten is healthier or could help them lose weight.

There is no current data to suggest that the general public should maintain a gluten-free diet to lose weight or improve their health.

A gluten-free diet is not always a healthy diet. For example, a gluten-free diet may not provide enough nutrients, vitamins and minerals that the body needs, such as fiber, iron and calcium.

Some gluten-free products can be high in calories and sugar.

If you think you might have celiac disease, do not start avoiding gluten without first checking with your doctor. If your doctor diagnoses you with celiac disease, he or she will put you on a gluten-free diet.