Celiac disease is a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten. This results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health. Although statistics are not readily available, it is estimated that 1 in 133 persons in Canada are affected by celiac disease.
A wide range of symptoms may be present. Symptoms may appear together or singularly in children or adults. In general, the symptoms of untreated celiac disease indicate the presence of malabsorption due to the damaged small intestine.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, triticale, and barley. In case of wheat, gliadin has been isolated as the toxic fraction. It is the gluten in the flour that helps bread and other baked goods bind and prevents crumbling. This feature has made gluten widely used in the production of many processed and packaged foods.
Celiac disease as yet has no known cure, but can usually be effectively treated and controlled. The treatment of celiac disease is strict adherence to a gluten free diet for life. This requires knowledgeable dietetic counselling and frequent 'up-dates' as commercial food contents change.