What Is Celiac Disease?

1% of the world population suffer from celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system believes that gluten is a threat.


What is celiac disease?

When gluten is ingested, the body produces antibodies that attack the gut with the enzyme TTG. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Immune responses to gluten damage the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food, therefore, a person who has celiac disease could become malnourished regardless of how much they eat. A gluten free diet is the only existing cure for celiac disease. Celiac disease can cause other autoimmune disorders, cancers, infertility and reduced bone density.


  • According to the Dr. Schar Institute, 1% of the global population suffers from celiac disease and worldwide prevalence has continued to rise in the last twenty years.

  • 30% of all celiac disease patients on the gluten-free diet still experience symptoms and/or continued intestinal villi damage.

  • It is estimated that 83% of Americans are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with celiac disease.

What causes celiac disease?

Celiac disease affects the small intestine and the tiny hair like projections, known as villi that coat it. When the body’s immune system perceives gluten as a stressor, the immune system releases antibodies that damage the villi's ability to absorb vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. This is why you may become malnourished from celiac disease despite eating your normal intake of food.

The precise cause of celiac disease is unknown. Nature and nurture play a part in the diagnosis. Family history and genetics are a predominant cause of suffering from celiac disease. There is an added 10% chance of having celiac disease if a family member suffers from the disease.

Gut health, gut bacteria and viral infections can impact on your chances of contracting celiac disease. Surgeries, pregnancy, childbirth and stress can also impact on your immune system’s reaction to gluten.
Women are more likely to suffer from celiac disease than men with 60-70% of celiac disease cases being diagnosed in women.

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

Celiac disease carries a wide range of symptoms but the most common include:

  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis or osteopenia (bone loss)
  • Liver and biliary tract disorders
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Peripheral neuropathy (tingling and/or numbness or pain in the hands and feet)
  • Seizures or migraines
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Infertility or recurrent miscarriage
  • Canker sores inside the mouth
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy skin rash)
  • Unexplained iron-deficiency anemia

The Science Bit

There are two key players in celiac disease known as:

  • Tissue Transglutaminase
  • Endomysial Antibodies

Tissue transglutaminase: Tissue Transglutaminase is an enzyme that repairs damage in the body. Low levels of transglutaminase tissue in the blood are indicative of celiac disease. The harmful antibodies in their place are known as anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody.

Endomysial Antibodies: When the body perceives that it is under attack, it produces endomysial antibodies. These autoantibodies cause intestinal swelling and prevent the absorption of nutrients into the blood. High levels of endomysial antibodies indicates that you have celiac disease.

Should you get tested?

You should get tested if your first degree family (mother, father, brother, sister) suffers from celiac disease as it is a genetic condition.
There is no cure for celiac disease but it can be managed by following a gluten free diet to ensure that symptoms are avoided and to allow the small intestine to heal.

  • If you are experiencing digestive discomfort for over two weeks
  • If you have had diarrhea for over two weeks
  • If you have thyroid issues, type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. Celiac disease has a high comorbidity level for other autoimmune disease.
  • If you have Turner syndrome
  • If you suffer from colitis (inflammation of the inner lining of the colon)

Take a Test For Celiac Disease

Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley