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What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a genetically based autoimmune condition in which the body attacks itself as a form of self-defense. This chronic immunologic response is triggered by gluten — a portion of the protein present in grains, including wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. This list extends to other grains that are ancient relatives of wheat, such as Kamut, triticale, emmer, and einkorn. The immunologic response to gluten can result in malabsorption of nutrients, leading to a variety of serious health complications.

The intolerance to gluten is permanent and cannot be outgrown even if diagnosed in early childhood. Once considered a rare childhood disease that would eventually be outgrown, celiac disease now affects mostly adults. A very recent study from the Mayo Clinic confirmed that the prevalence of celiac disease has increased more than fourfold in the past 50 years. Globally, epidemiologists estimate that celiac disease may affect 0.5% to 1% of the population, although many cases remain undiagnosed. The only truly effective treatment is adopting a gluten-free diet and restoring nutrient deficiencies with a balanced diet and nutritional supplements.