Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune condition in which the body’s reaction to the protein in gluten damages the digestive tract. Celiac disease can cause gastrointestinal symptoms but it also damages numerous other body systems through an inability to absorb vitamins and minerals that results in nutritional deficiencies and may affect the blood, bones, brain or skin, for example producing severe anemia or unexpected osteoporosis.
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; it occurs more rarely in black and Asian populations. As many as 1 person in 120 or 140 has celiac disease. Since susceptibility is partly determined by genetics, people with a family member who has celiac disease are consequently at much higher risk of the disorder.