Celiac Disease (Celiac Sprue)

Celiac disease is a digestive condition whereby ingestion of gluten causes inflammation of the lining of the small bowel, and results in malabsorption.  Gluten is found in bread, pasta, and all foods that contain wheat, barley or rye.

Symptoms may include diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, and anemia.  Rarely, osteoporosis, depression, neuropathy and derucatitis herpetiformis can occur.

The cause of celiac disease is not known, it may be an allergy to gluten, or an autoimmune response to it.  Over the past 2 years, literature has alluded to celiac disease being much more common than previously thought.  However, that may be due to the ability to use sensitive blood antibody tests that may be positive in patients with very mild or no symptoms at all.  These patients are not in need of the very limiting diet that is used to treat celiac disease, nor would they want to do it, unless they were having symptoms.

In adults, severe cases can result in malabsorption of nutrients and vitamins, as well as vitamins D & Calcium, possibly exacerbating osteoporosis and causing kidney stones.

Celiac disease is treated by a gluten-free diet.  The small bowel absorptive villi, repair themselves, and begin to absorb nutrients normally.  Complete healing may be expected, however, adherence to the diet is required.

Foods that are allowed include: meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, rice, potatoes, soy, and corn.

Foods to be avoided include: breads, cereals, crackers, pastas, cookies, cakes, pies, gravies, sauces.  Gluten is found in many products such as vitamins, medicines and lipstick, so beware.  You must read all labels carefully.

Although there is talk on all websites about risks of cancer and “many complications” associated with celiac disease, in over 50 years of combined medical practice, we have noted this to be the case. 

Most patients improve remarkably with strict dietary restrictions.  The outlook is quite bright, and we have not noted any significant familial occurrences. 

Seeking out your local Celiac Foundation support group is the single most important thing a celiac patient can do. They know all the tricks of the trade.