Dr. Barbara Huggins

Celiac Disease

January 24, 2008

Celiac Disease -  January 24, 2008Celiac disease affects 1 out of every 133 Americans. Though it can lead to malabsorption and weight loss, it can also masquerade as several other health problems. Before you eat your sandwich for lunch, you may want to hear Dr. Mom's report.

People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate a protein called gluten found in wheat, rye and barley. It can also be found in products we use every day, such as medications, stamp and envelop adhesives and even soy sauce. Gluten-intolerant people produce antibodies to gluten that can affect any system in the body so the symptoms can be insidious and obscure. Ingesting gluten, even a small amount may cause symptoms. The most significant problem with celiac disease is that the antibodies can damage the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. Tiny, hair-like projections (villi) line a normal intestine. Villi work to absorb vitamins, minerals and nutrients. When a person with celiac disease eats foods or uses products containing gluten, the villi are damaged or destroyed.

One out of every 133 Americans has celiac disease, but 97% remain undiagnosed.

Signs and symptoms:

A person may of some of these symptoms or none of these symptoms. A lack of symptoms still puts a person at risk for complications of celiac disease.


The only treatment for celiac disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet. Fruits, vegetables, rice, fish, potatoes, and plain meat do not contain gluten. Most foods made from grains contain gluten.

Foods to Avoid:

Reading product labels every time is extremely important in maintaining a gluten-free diet. Manufacturers may change a product’s ingredients at any time so don’t rely on the old stand-by.

A local support group can be helpful in sharing recipes and suggestions.

For more information:

NOTICE: Protected health information is subject to electronic disclosure.