Celiac disease (patient information)

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Celiac disease (patient information)


What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

Who is at highest risk?


Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Celiac Disease?


What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications

Celiac disease On the Web

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Meagan E. Doherty


Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medications, vitamins, and lip balms. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi (the tiny, finger-like protrusions lining the small intestine). Villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food eats. Celiac disease is both a malabsorption disease (nutrients are not absorbed properly), and an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. Celiac disease is also known as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Celiac disease is genetic, means it runs in families. Sometimes the disease is triggered (or becomes active for the first time) after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress.

What are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?

Symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person. Symptoms may occur in the digestive system or in other parts of the body. Digestive symptoms are more common in infants and young children and may include:

Adults are less likely to have digestive symptoms and may have one or more of the following, instead:

What Causes Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease may be due to the following causes:

Who is at Highest Risk?

People with celiac disease tend to have other diseases, in which the immune system attacks the body’s healthy cells and tissues. The connection between celiac disease and these diseases may be genetic background. They include:


Treatment Options

The Gluten-Free Diet

Allowed foods

  • Amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, cassava, corn, flax, Indian rice grass, Job’s tears, legumes, millet, nuts, potatoes, quinoa, rice, sago, seeds, sorghum, soy, tapioca, teff, wild rice, and yucca

Foods to avoid

  • Wheat (einkorn, emmer, spelt, kamut, wheat starch, wheat bran, wheat germ, cracked wheat, and hydrolyzed wheat protein), barley, rye, triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).
  • Other wheat products, such as bromated flour, durum flour, enriched flour, farina, graham flour, phosphated flour, plain flour, self-rising flour, semolina, and white flour.
  • Processed foods that may contain barley, wheat or rye, such as bouillon cubes, brown rice syrup, candy, chips/potato chips, cold cuts, hot dogs, salami, sausage, communion wafers, French fries, gravy, imitation fish, matzo, rice mixes, sauces, seasoned tortilla chips, self-basting turkey, soups, soy sauce, and vegetables in sauce.

Other Diseases with Similar Symptoms

Where to find Medical Care for Celiac Disease?

Directions to Hospitals Treating Celiac Disease


What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications

Complications that may develop include the following:


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