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  1. 1. Celiac Disease National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse What is celiac disease? Celiac disease is a digestive disease that dam­ ages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. PeopleU.S. Departmentof Health and who have celiac disease cannot tolerateHuman Services gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may alsoNATIONAL be found in everyday products such as medi­INSTITUTES Small intestineOF HEALTH cines, vitamins, and lip balms. Stomach When people with celiac disease eat foods or Liver use products containing gluten, their immune Colon system responds by damaging or destroying villi—the tiny, fingerlike 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 one eats. Villi Small intestine The small intestine is shaded above. Celiac disease is both a disease of Villi on the lining of the small intestine help absorb malabsorption—meaning nutrients are nutrients. not absorbed properly—and an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. Celiac disease is also known as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy.
  2. 2. Celiac disease is genetic, meaning it runs Adults are less likely to have digestive symp­in families. Sometimes the disease is trig­ toms and may instead have one or more ofgered—or becomes active for the first the following:time—after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, • unexplained iron-deficiency anemiaviral infection, or severe emotional stress. • fatigueWhat are the symptoms of • bone or joint painceliac disease? • arthritisSymptoms of celiac disease vary from per­ • bone loss or osteoporosisson to person. Symptoms may occur in thedigestive system or in other parts of the body. • depression or anxietyDigestive symptoms are more common in • tingling numbness in the hands and feetinfants and young children and may include • seizures • abdominal bloating and pain • missed menstrual periods • chronic diarrhea • infertility or recurrent miscarriage • vomiting • canker sores inside the mouth • constipation • an itchy skin rash called dermatitis • pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool herpetiformis • weight loss People with celiac disease may have no symp­Irritability is another common symptom in toms but can still develop complications ofchildren. Malabsorption of nutrients during the disease over time. Long-term complica­the years when nutrition is critical to a child’s tions include malnutrition—which can leadnormal growth and development can result to anemia, osteoporosis, and miscarriage,in other problems such as failure to thrive among other problems—liver diseases, andin infants, delayed growth and short stature, cancers of the intestine.delayed puberty, and dental enamel defectsof the permanent teeth.2 Celiac Disease
  3. 3. Why are celiac disease How common is celiacsymptoms so varied? disease?Researchers are studying the reasons celiac Celiac disease affects people in all partsdisease affects people differently. The length of the world. Originally thought to be aof time a person was breastfed, the age a per­ rare childhood syndrome, celiac disease isson started eating gluten-containing foods, now known to be a common genetic dis­and the amount of gluten-containing foods order. More than 2 million people in theone eats are three factors thought to play a United States have the disease, or about 1 inrole in when and how celiac disease appears. 133 people.1 Among people who have a first­Some studies have shown, for example, that degree relative—a parent, sibling, or child—the longer a person was breastfed, the later diagnosed with celiac disease, as many as 1 inthe symptoms of celiac disease appear. 22 people may have the disease.2Symptoms also vary depending on a person’s Celiac disease is also more common amongage and the degree of damage to the small people with other genetic disorders includ­intestine. Many adults have the disease for ing Down syndrome and Turner syndrome, aa decade or more before they are diagnosed. condition that affects girls’ development.The longer a person goes undiagnosed anduntreated, the greater the chance of develop­ing long-term complications.What other health problemsdo people with celiacdisease have?People with celiac disease tend to have otherdiseases in which the immune system attacksthe body’s healthy cells and tissues. Theconnection between celiac disease and thesediseases may be genetic. They include • type 1 diabetes • autoimmune thyroid disease • autoimmune liver disease • rheumatoid arthritis • Addison’s disease, a condition in which the glands that produce critical hor­ mones are damaged • Sjögren’s syndrome, a condition in which the glands that produce tears and 1Fasano A, Berti I, Gerarduzzi T, et al. Prevalence saliva are destroyed of celiac disease in at-risk and not-at-risk groups in the United States. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2003;163(3):268–292. 2Ibid.3 Celiac Disease
  4. 4. How is celiac disease Before being tested, one should continue to eat a diet that includes foods with gluten,diagnosed? such as breads and pastas. If a person stopsRecognizing celiac disease can be difficult eating foods with gluten before being tested,because some of its symptoms are similar the results may be negative for celiac diseaseto those of other diseases. Celiac disease even if the disease is present.can be confused with irritable bowel syn­drome, iron-deficiency anemia caused by Intestinal Biopsymenstrual blood loss, inflammatory bowel If blood tests and symptoms suggest celiacdisease, diverticulitis, intestinal infections, disease, a biopsy of the small intestine isand chronic fatigue syndrome. As a result, performed to confirm the diagnosis. Duringceliac disease has long been underdiagnosed the biopsy, the doctor removes tiny piecesor misdiagnosed. As doctors become more of tissue from the small intestine to checkaware of the many varied symptoms of the for damage to the villi. To obtain the tissuedisease and reliable blood tests become more sample, the doctor eases a long, thin tubeavailable, diagnosis rates are increasing. called an endoscope through the patient’s mouth and stomach into the small intestine.Blood Tests The doctor then takes the samples usingPeople with celiac disease have higher than instruments passed through the endoscope.normal levels of certain autoantibodies—proteins that react against the body’s owncells or tissues—in their blood. To diagnoseceliac disease, doctors will test blood for highlevels of anti-tissue transglutaminase anti­bodies (tTGA) or anti-endomysium antibod­ies (EMA). If test results are negative butceliac disease is still suspected, additionalblood tests may be needed.4 Celiac Disease
  5. 5. Screening Dermatitis Herpetiformis Screening for celiac disease means testing for the presence of autoantibodies in the Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is an blood in people without symptoms. Ameri­ intensely itchy, blistering skin rash that cans are not routinely screened for celiac affects 15 to 25 percent of people with disease. However, because celiac disease is celiac disease.3 The rash usually occurs hereditary, family members of a person with on the elbows, knees, and buttocks. the disease may wish to be tested. Four to Most people with DH have no digestive 12 percent of an affected person’s first­ symptoms of celiac disease. degree relatives will also have the disease.4 DH is diagnosed through blood tests and a skin biopsy. If the antibody tests How is celiac disease are positive and the skin biopsy has the typical findings of DH, patients do treated? not need to have an intestinal biopsy. The only treatment for celiac disease is a Both the skin disease and the intestinal gluten-free diet. Doctors may ask a newly disease respond to a gluten-free diet diagnosed person to work with a dietitian on and recur if gluten is added back into a gluten-free diet plan. A dietitian is a health the diet. The rash symptoms can be care professional who specializes in food and controlled with antibiotics such as dap­ nutrition. Someone with celiac disease can sone. Because dapsone does not treat learn from a dietitian how to read ingredient the intestinal condition, people with DH lists and identify foods that contain gluten must maintain a gluten-free diet. in order to make informed decisions at the grocery store and when eating out. 3Rodrigo L. Celiac disease. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2006;12(41):6585–6593. For most people, following this diet will stop symptoms, heal existing intestinal damage, and prevent further damage. Improvement begins within days of starting the diet. The small intestine usually heals in 3 to 6 months in children but may take several years in adults. A healed intestine means a person now has villi that can absorb nutrients from food into the bloodstream. 4Ibid.5 Celiac Disease
  6. 6. To stay well, people with celiac disease must The Gluten-free Dietavoid gluten for the rest of their lives. Eating A gluten-free diet means not eating foodseven a small amount of gluten can damage that contain wheat, rye, and barley. Thethe small intestine. The damage will occur foods and products made from these grainsin anyone with the disease, including people should also be avoided. In other words, awithout noticeable symptoms. Depending on person with celiac disease should not eata person’s age at diagnosis, some problems most grain, pasta, cereal, and many pro­will not improve, such as short stature and cessed foods.dental enamel defects. Despite these restrictions, people with celiacSome people with celiac disease show no disease can eat a well-balanced diet with aimprovement on the gluten-free diet. The variety of foods. They can use potato, rice,most common reason for poor response to soy, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, or beanthe diet is that small amounts of gluten are flour instead of wheat flour. They can buystill being consumed. Hidden sources of glu­ gluten-free bread, pasta, and other prod­ten include additives such as modified food ucts from stores that carry organic foods, orstarch, preservatives, and stabilizers made order products from special food companies.with wheat. And because many corn and rice Gluten-free products are increasingly avail­products are produced in factories that also able from mainstream stores.manufacture wheat products, they can becontaminated with wheat gluten.Rarely, the intestinal injury will continuedespite a strictly gluten-free diet. Peoplewith this condition, known as refractoryceliac disease, have severely damaged intes­tines that cannot heal. Because their intes­tines are not absorbing enough nutrients,they may need to receive nutrients directlyinto their bloodstream through a vein, orintravenously. Researchers are evaluatingdrug treatments for refractory celiac disease.6 Celiac Disease
  7. 7. The gluten-free diet requires a completely new approach to eating. Newly diagnosed New Food Labeling people and their families may find support The Food Allergen Labeling and Con­ groups helpful as they learn to adjust to a sumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which new way of life. People with celiac disease took effect on January 1, 2006, requires must be cautious about what they buy for food labels to clearly identify wheat and lunch at school or work, what they purchase other common food allergens in the list at the grocery store, what they eat at res­ of ingredients. FALCPA also requires taurants or parties, and what they grab for a the U.S. Food and Drug Administration snack. Eating out can be a challenge. When to develop and finalize rules for the use in doubt about a menu item, a person with of the term “gluten free” on product celiac disease should ask the waiter or chef labels. about ingredients and preparation or if a gluten-free menu is available.“Plain” meat, fish, rice, fruits, and vegetables Gluten is also used in some medications.do not contain gluten, so people with celiac People with celiac disease should ask adisease can freely eat these foods. In the pharmacist if prescribed medications containpast, people with celiac disease were advised wheat. Because gluten is sometimes used asnot to eat oats. New evidence suggests that an additive in unexpected products—suchmost people can safely eat small amounts of as lipstick and play dough—reading productoats, as long as the oats are not contaminated labels is important. If the ingredients are notwith wheat gluten during processing. People listed on the label, the manufacturer shouldwith celiac disease should work closely provide a list upon request. With practice,with their health care team when deciding screening for gluten becomes second nature.whether to include oats in their diet. Exam­ples of other foods that are safe to eat andthose that are not are provided in the tableon page 8.7 Celiac Disease
  8. 8. The Gluten-free Diet: Some ExamplesIn 2006, the American Dietetic Association updated its recommendations for a gluten-freediet. The following chart is based on the 2006 recommendations. This list is not complete, sopeople with celiac disease should discuss gluten-free food choices with a dietitian or physicianwho specializes in celiac disease. People with celiac disease should always read food ingredientlists carefully to make sure the food does not contain gluten. Allowed Foods amaranth legumes seeds arrowroot millet sorghum buckwheat nuts soy cassava potatoes tapioca corn quinoa teff flax rice wild rice Indian rice grass sago yucca Job’s tears Foods to Avoid wheat barley • including einkorn, emmer, spelt, kamut rye • wheat starch, wheat bran, wheat germ, cracked wheat, triticale (a cross between hydrolyzed wheat protein wheat and rye) Other Wheat Products bromated flour graham flour self-rising flour durum flour phosphated flour semolina enriched flour plain flour white flour farina Processed Foods that May Contain Wheat, Barley, or Rye* bouillon cubes French fries seasoned tortilla chips brown rice syrup gravy self-basting turkey candy imitation fish soups chips/potato chips matzo soy sauce cold cuts, hot dogs, salami, rice mixes vegetables in sauce sausage sauces communion wafers*Most of these foods can be found gluten-free. When in doubt, check with the food manufacturer.Source: Thompson T. Celiac Disease Nutrition Guide, 2nd ed. Chicago: American Dietetic Association; 2006. ©American Dietetic Association. Adapted with permission. For a complete copy of the Celiac Disease NutritionGuide, please visit www.eatright.org.8 Celiac Disease
  9. 9. Hope through Research Points to Remember The National Institute of Diabetes and • People with celiac disease cannot Digestive and Kidney Diseases conducts tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, and supports research on celiac disease. rye, and barley. Researchers are studying new options for diagnosing celiac disease, including capsule • Untreated celiac disease damages endoscopy. In this technique, patients swal­ the small intestine and interferes low a capsule containing a tiny video camera with nutrient absorption. that records images of the small intestine. • Without treatment, people with Several drug treatments for celiac disease celiac disease can develop com­ are under evaluation. Researchers are also plications such as osteoporosis, studying a combination of enzymes—proteins anemia, and cancer. that aid chemical reactions in the body—that • A person with celiac disease may or detoxify gluten before it enters the small may not have symptoms. intestine. • Diagnosis involves blood tests and, Scientists are also developing educational in most cases, a biopsy of the small materials for standardized medical training intestine. to raise awareness among health care pro­ viders. The hope is that increased under­ • Since celiac disease is hereditary, standing and awareness will lead to earlier family members of a person with diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease. celiac disease may wish to be tested. Participants in clinical trials can play a more • Celiac disease is treated by elimi­ active role in their own health care, gain nating all gluten from the diet. access to new research treatments before The gluten-free diet is a lifetime they are widely available, and help others by requirement. contributing to medical research. For infor­ mation about current studies, visit • A dietitian can teach a person with www.ClinicalTrials.gov. celiac disease about food selection, label reading, and other strategies to help manage the disease.9 Celiac Disease
  10. 10. For More Information Gluten Intolerance Group of North America 31214 124th Avenue SEAmerican Celiac Disease Alliance Auburn, WA 98092–36672504 Duxbury Place Phone: 253–833–6655Alexandria, VA 22308 Fax: 253–833–6675Phone: 703–622–3331 Email: info@gluten.netEmail: info@americanceliac.org Internet: www.gluten.netInternet: www.americanceliac.org National Foundation for Celiac AwarenessAmerican Dietetic Association P.O. Box 544120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000 Ambler, PA 19002–0544Chicago, IL 60606–6995 Phone: 215–325–1306Phone: 1–800–877–1600 Email: info@celiaccentral.orgEmail: knowledge@eatright.org Internet: www.celiaccentral.orgInternet: www.eatright.org North American Society for PediatricCeliac Disease Foundation Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition13251 Ventura Boulevard, #1 P.O. Box 6Studio City, CA 91604 Flourtown, PA 19031Phone: 818–990–2354 Phone: 215–233–0808Fax: 818–990–2379 Fax: 215–233–3918Email: cdf@celiac.org Email: naspghan@naspghan.orgInternet: www.celiac.org Internet: www.naspghan.orgCeliac Sprue Association/USA, Inc.P.O. Box 31700Omaha, NE 68131–0700Phone: 1–877–CSA–4CSA (272–4272)Fax: 402–558–1347Email: celiacs@csaceliacs.orgInternet: www.csaceliacs.orgChildren’s Digestive Health and NutritionFoundationP.O. Box 6Flourtown, PA 19031Phone: 215–233–0808Fax: 215–233–3918Email: mstallings@naspghan.orgInternet: www.cdhnf.org www.celiachealth.org10 Celiac Disease
  11. 11. The Celiac Disease Awareness You may also find additional information about thisCampaign topic by visiting MedlinePlus at www.medlineplus.gov. This publication may contain information about med-To meet the need for comprehensive and ications. When prepared, this publication includedcurrent information about celiac disease, the most current information available. For updatesthe National Digestive Diseases Information or for questions about any medications, contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration toll-free atClearinghouse (NDDIC), a service of the 1–888–INFO–FDA (463–6332) or visit www.fda.gov.National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Consult your doctor for more information.and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), launched theCeliac Disease Awareness Campaign. TheAwareness Campaign is the result of the com-bined ideas and efforts of the professional andvoluntary organizations that focus on celiacdisease, along with the NIDDK, the NationalInstitutes of Health, and the Centers for Dis-ease Control and Prevention.Visit www.celiac.nih.gov to learn more aboutthe Awareness Campaign.11 Celiac Disease
  12. 12. National Digestive DiseasesInformation Clearinghouse 2 Information Way Bethesda, MD 20892–3570 Phone: 1–800–891–5389 TTY: 1–866–569–1162 Fax: 703–738–4929 Email: nddic@info.niddk.nih.gov Internet: www.digestive.niddk.nih.govThe National Digestive Diseases InformationClearinghouse (NDDIC) is a service of theNational Institute of Diabetes and Digestive andKidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is partof the National Institutes of Health of the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services.Established in 1980, the Clearinghouse providesinformation about digestive diseases to people withdigestive disorders and to their families, health careprofessionals, and the public. The NDDIC answersinquiries, develops and distributes publications,and works closely with professional and patientorganizations and Government agencies tocoordinate resources about digestive diseases.Publications produced by the Clearinghouse arecarefully reviewed by both NIDDK scientists andoutside experts. This fact sheet was originallyreviewed by Ciaran Kelly, M.D., Beth IsraelDeaconess Medical Center; Mitchell Cohen, M.D.,Cincinnati, Children’s Hospital Medical Center;Walter Reed Army Medical Center; NationalFoundation for Celiac Awareness; Celiac DiseaseFoundation; Celiac Sprue Association/USA, Inc.;and Centers for Disease Control and Preventionstaff. The gluten-free diet chart was reviewedby Alice Bast and Nancy Dickens, NationalFoundation for Celiac Awareness; Cynthia Kupper,R.D., C.D., Gluten Intolerance Group; and ElaineMonarch, Celiac Disease Foundation. This publication is not copyrighted. The Clearinghouse encourages users of this fact sheet to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired. This fact sheet is also available at www.digestive.niddk.nih.gov. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES National Institutes of Health NIH Publication No. 08–4269 September 2008