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Celiac (SEE-lee-ak) disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the digestive system. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a substance found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten may also be in other products like medicines, vitamins, and even the glue on stamps and envelopes. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products that have gluten in them, the immune system responds by damaging the lining of the small intestine. When this happens, the body can't absorb all the nutrients it needs. This can lead to malnutrition, anemia, osteoporosis, and other problems.
Symptoms of celiac disease include:
- Stomach pain
- Feeling very tired
- Becoming irritable or depressed
- Weight loss
- A very itchy skin rash with blisters
- Not being able to get pregnant or repeated miscarriage
Celiac disease is genetic, meaning that it runs in families. Blood tests can help your doctor find out if you have the disease. Your doctor may also need to examine a small piece of tissue from your small intestine. The only treatment for celiac disease is to eat a diet free of gluten.
Adjusting to a gluten-free diet can seem overwhelming and greatly affect quality of life at first. But a dietitian, doctor, and support group can help those newly diagnosed with menu planning, shopping, and even dining out. Over time, this change in lifestyle becomes second nature.
Explore other publications and websites
Celiac Disease — This publication provides information on the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments of celiac disease.
Celiac Disease (Copyright © International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders) — This fact sheet describes the symptoms of celiac disease and offers suggestions on lifestyle changes that may decrease the severity of these symptoms.
Gluten-Free Recipes (Copyright © Celiac Sprue Association) — This web page has a variety of gluten-free recipes and also explains how to adapt recipes to make them gluten-free.
Quick Start Diet Guide for Celiac Disease (Copyright © Celiac Disease Foundation) — This brochure provides a simple overview of the gluten-free diet and tips for people recently diagnosed with celiac disease.
Tax Deductions for Gluten-Free Foods as Medical Expenses for Celiacs (Copyright © Celiac Foundation) — Because of special ingredients, eating gluten- free can be more expensive than eating foods containing gluten. This fact sheet explains how you can help deal with the extra expenses of a gluten-free diet by claiming tax deductions on gluten-free foods.
What I Need to Know About Celiac Disease — This booklet defines celiac disease and explains its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. It includes some examples of a gluten-free diet.
What is Celiac Disease? (Copyright © The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness) — This fact sheet discusses celiac disease, the treatment, and medications to avoid if on a gluten-free diet.
Connect with other organizations
Celiac Disease Foundation
Celiac Sprue Association/United States of America, Inc.
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness
Content last updated September 22, 2009.
Resources last updated September 22, 2009.
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