What is Celiac Disease and the Gluten-Free Diet? Celiac.com - https://www.celiac.com
What is Celiac Disease and the Gluten Free Diet?
Scott Adams

In 1994 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which led me to create Celiac.com in 1995. I created this site for a single purpose: To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives. Celiac.com was the first site on the Internet dedicated solely to celiac disease. In 1998 I founded The Gluten-Free Mall, Your Special Diet Superstore!, and I am the co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

By Scott Adams
Published on 07/26/1996

Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 133.

Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is a genetic disorder that affects at least 1 in 133 Americans. Symptoms of celiac disease can range from the classic features, such as diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition, to latent symptoms such as isolated nutrient deficiencies but no gastrointestinal symptoms. The disease mostly affects people of European (especially Northern European) descent, but recent studies show that it also affects Hispanic, Black and Asian populations as well. 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) that are found in wheat, rye, and barley. Oats used to be considered toxic to those with celiac disease, however, recent scientific research has shown otherwise.

Based on the figure mentioned above we can extrapolate the total number of people in the United States with celiac disease: 2.18 million (based on the total population: 290,356,028). It is very important that doctors understand just how many people have this disease so that routine testing for it is done to bring the diagnosis rate in line with the diseases epidemiology. Testing is fairly simple and involves screening the patients blood for antigliadin (AGA) and endomysium antibodies (EmA), and/or doing a biopsy on the areas of the intestines mentioned above, which is still the standard for a formal diagnosis.

Currently the only acceptable treatment for celiac disease is strict adherence to a 100% gluten-free diet for life. An adherence to a gluten-free diet can prevent almost all complications caused by the disease. A gluten-free diet means avoiding all products that contain wheat, rye and barley, or any of their derivatives. This is a difficult task as there are many hidden sources of gluten found in the ingredients of many processed foods.

There are enzyme supplements currently available such as AN-PEP which may help to mitigate accidental gluten ingestion by celiacs. Additionally there are many celiac disease drugs and therapies in various stages of development by pharmaceutical companies which are designed treat celiac disease. At some point in the not too distant future there will likely be alternative treatments available for those who cannot accept a lifelong gluten-free diet.

This site is designed to help people with celiac disease get diagnosed, and make life easier after their diagnosis. Those who are interested can read the story of my diagnosis.

  1. Alessio Fasano, MD, et. al., Arch Intern Med. 2003;163:286-292.
  2. Gastroenterology, April, 1996 First Epidemiological Study of Gluten Intolerance in the United States. By Karoly Horvath, MD, Ph.D., et. al..
  3. New England Journal of Medicine, May 2, 1996 -- Volume 334, Number 18, The Many Faces of Celiac Disease by Charles H. Halsted, MD
  4. Goggins, et. al. Celiac Disease and Other Nutrient Related Injuries to the Gastrointestinal Tract The American Journal of Gastroenterology. Vol. 89, No. 8, pages S2 - S13, 1994.
  5. United States Census Bureau, February 27, 2003.

Information on this site has been compiled from a variety of sources, including medical journals, books, doctors, scientists and the Celiac Listserv News Group. I would like to especially thank the latter for providing an invaluable source information for celiacs, doctors and researchers.