Learning About Celiac

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide, but only about 30% are properly diagnosed.

When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.

Celiac disease is hereditary, meaning that it runs in families. People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease.

Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start consuming gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems.

Per Celiac.org

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye that plays a vital role in the texture, appearance, and structure of many foods.

Glutenin and gliadin are the two primary proteins found in gluten. These proteins have distinct functions in developing gluten’s structure and properties.

Glutenin contributes to the elasticity and strength of gluten. Glutenin molecules are long, chain-like structures that form when you mix flour and water. These chains give the dough its elasticity and allow it to stretch without tearing.

Gliadin is the other primary protein found in gluten. It contributes to making bread dough more viscous and stretchy. It plays a crucial role in trapping gas in bread dough, which is necessary for breadmaking.

Together, glutenin and gliadin work in harmony to create the unique properties of gluten, making it ideal for various baked goods such as bread, pastries, pasta, and more.

Per BeyondCeliac.org

What Defines a Gluten-Free Diet?

Avoid all foods and drinks containing the following:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale — a cross between wheat and rye
  • Oats, in some cases

While oats are naturally gluten-free, they may be contaminated during production with wheat, barley or rye. Oats and oat products labeled gluten-free have not been cross-contaminated. Some people with celiac disease, however, cannot tolerate the gluten-free-labeled oats.

Per MayoClinic.org

What is Cross-Contamination?

A gluten-free diet (GFD) is currently the only effective treatment for celiac disease (CD); an individual’s daily intake of gluten should not exceed 10 mg. However, it is difficult to maintain a strict oral diet for life and at least one-third of patients with CD are exposed to gluten, despite their best efforts at dietary modifications. 

It has been demonstrated that both natural and certified gluten-free foods can be heavily contaminated with gluten well above the commonly accepted threshold of 20 mg/kg. Moreover, meals from food services such as restaurants, workplaces, and schools remain a significant risk for inadvertent gluten exposure. Other possible sources of gluten are non-certified oat products, numerous composite foods, medications, and cosmetics that unexpectedly contain “hidden” vital gluten, a proteinaceous by-product of wheat starch production. A number of immunochemical assays are commercially available worldwide to detect gluten. 

Per ncbi.nlm.nih.gov