Celiac disease is an inherited condition in which there is an autoimmune reaction to gluten in the diet. (Gluten is a component in wheat, spelt, rye, oats, barley, triticale and kamut.) Gluten intolerance produces a wasting disease of childhood in which there is an inability to absorb fats from the intestine; the stools, therefore, have an excess of fat and are pale, bulky and frothy. In adults, celiac disease is a chronic digestive disorder in which stress can be a factor. Inflammation, diarrhoea, pain, weight loss and malnutrition are a few of the problems that may be experienced.
Those affected suffer damage to the villi (shortening and villous flattening) in the lamina propria and crypt regions of their intestines when they eat specific food-grain antigens (toxic amino acid sequences). Celiac disease is associated with a variety of autoimmune disorders, carcinomas of the gastrointestinal tract and lymphomas.
The disease mostly affects people of European descent, and occurs more rarely in black and Asian populations. Celiac disease affects between 1 in 150 to 1 in 250 Americans (USA).