Celiac disease, also known as sprue, celiac sprue, non-tropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is a life-long genetically-related autoimmune disease in which the body’s reaction to gluten causes damage to the intestines that results in poor absorption of nutrients, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies often develop. Celiac disease is most common among people of Northern European ancestry and is uncommon to rare among people of African or Asian ancestry.
Common symptoms of celiac disease fall into two categories: those primarily related to the immediate problems of digesting food (chronic diarrhea, foul-smelling grayish stools as a result from inability to properly digest fats, abdominal cramps, weight loss) and those resulted mainly from long-term deficiencies in vitamins and minerals (iron deficiency anemia, joint pain, muscle pain, muscle cramps, osteoporosis, seizures, bleeding disorders, failure to thrive in infants, delayed mental and physical growth in children, etc.).
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder that cannot be prevented. Once diagnosed, the only way to prevent symptoms and complications is to follow a strictly gluten-free diet. Patients need counseling from a dietitian to be informed what is safe to eat and how to get the right balance of nutrients in a gluten-free diet what can include but is not limited by plain fruits and vegetables, plain meat, potatoes, rice, products made of corn, nuts, dried beans and peas. Some of the foods people with celiac disease must avoid are wheat flours, white flour, wheat germ, wheat starch, wheat bran, pasta, bread, cakes, cookies, products made with barley, products made with rye, etc.
The intestines of people with celiac disease who go on a gluten-free diet heal. In children the healing usually takes 3–6 months, in adults it can take up to 2 years. The intestinal villi remain intact and function properly so long as the diet remains free of gluten, but the disease is never cured.