Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease characterized by an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the villi in the small intestine. This can lead to a wide range of symptoms and health problems.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by an intolerance to gluten. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the villi in the small intestine. These intestinal villi are responsible for the absorption of nutrients from our food. When they are damaged, they cannot do their job properly, which can lead to malnutrition and other health problems.
Symptoms of celiac disease
The symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly from person to person. Some people experience severe symptoms, while others have no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue and anemia. In some cases, celiac disease can also lead to problems with the skin, nervous system and fertility.
Diagnosis of celiac disease
Celiac disease can be diagnosed by a blood test and an endoscopy of the small intestine. The blood test looks for antibodies typical of celiac disease. If the blood test is positive, an endoscopy is performed to look at the intestinal villi in the small intestine. If these are damaged, this confirms the diagnosis of celiac disease.
Treatment of celiac disease
The only effective treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet. This means that all foods and drinks containing gluten should be avoided. This can be challenging because gluten is found in many different foods, including bread, pasta, cookies and many processed foods. Research shows that people who follow a gluten-free diet unknowingly or unintentionally consume between 200 and 3,000 mg of gluten per day. 
Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity
It is important to understand that celiac disease is different from gluten sensitivity. While people with celiac disease have an autoimmune reaction to gluten, people with gluten sensitivity have no damage to their intestines. Instead, they experience symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain and fatigue after eating gluten. Although strict avoidance of gluten can also alleviate their symptoms, it is usually not necessary for them to avoid gluten completely, as is the case with celiac disease.
Living with celiac disease
Although living with celiac disease can be challenging, it is possible to live a healthy and fulfilling life with the right treatment and support. Maintaining a strict gluten-free diet is essential. In addition, regular medical follow-up can help in the management of the disease and early detection of any complications. It's also helpful to connect with other people living with celiac disease, whether that's online, in support groups, or through celiac disease organizations. They can provide helpful tips and advice, as well as emotional support.
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease that can cause serious damage to the small intestine when ingesting gluten. Maintaining a strict gluten-free diet is key to managing celiac disease and preventing further health problems. With the right diagnosis, treatment and support, people with celiac disease can live full, healthy and fulfilling lives.
F. van Overbeek et al. 'The daily gluten intake in relatives of patients with celiac disease compared with that of the general Dutch population', Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol, 1997, vol. 9, no. 11, p1097-9