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February 27, 2023 BlogCeliac Disease

Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease that affects the digestive system. It is triggered when a person consumes gluten, which is a protein found in rye, wheat, and barley. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, their immune system reacts to the protein by attacking the small intestine. The role of the small intestine is to digest food and allow the body to use the nutrients. When the body attacks the small intestine, it damages the lining of the small intestine, resulting in symptoms that include bloating, abdominal pain, and weight loss. Eventually, after the small intestine has suffered damage, it can result in the body’s inability to absorb nutrients, therefore leading to a deficiency of nutrients and health problems. 

It is often difficult to tell if children have celiac disease, as the symptoms in children and adults differ. 

Symptoms in adults include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating and gas
  • Abdominal cramps/pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation

Adults can also experience a variety of symptoms unrelated to the digestive system, such as: 

  • Anemia
  • Loss of bone density
  • Headaches
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Joint pain

Digestive problems are commonly seen in children with celiac disease, rather than in adults with celiac.

Symptoms in children include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Irritability

Symptoms are often not enough to tell if someone has celiac disease. People are more susceptible to celiac disease if they have some of the risk factors listed below:

  • Family history of celiac disease and/or dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy skin rash)
  • Type 1 diabetes 
  • Turner Syndrome or Down Syndrome
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Microscopic colitis 
  • Addison’s disease

Diagnosis of celiac disease is through blood tests that check for certain antibodies and biomarkers. 

  • A serology test detects elevated antibodies which indicate the body is reacting to the gluten protein. 
  • A genetic test detects human leukocyte antigens in order to eliminate the possibility of celiac disease. 

Often following these blood tests is an endoscopy/biopsy of the small intestine to evaluate the damage caused by the body’s response to the gluten protein.  

Although there is no cure for celiac disease, a change in diet helps to regulate the symptoms of celiac disease. A gluten-free diet often consists of gluten-free foods and vitamin and mineral supplements to regulate the body’s nutrients. Following a gluten-free diet allows the small intestine to heal. Doctors and dietitians can help guide people on their diet and inform them of gluten-free alternatives. This diet is normally life-long in order to prevent symptoms or a flare-up of the small intestine again. Doctors sometimes prescribe steroids as well to help regulate the inflammation of the small intestine. 

It is often difficult for people with celiac disease to eat out at restaurants or buy pre-made food from stores as it is tricky to be one hundred percent certain that a food is truly gluten-free. Stickers on foods say “may contain gluten” as a way to protect the manufacturing companies from lawsuits. However, most of the time the food does not contain gluten itself but has a small chance that it could have been cross-contaminated during the production process. This limits food that people with celiac disease feel safe consuming and buying. The FDA has standards that must be met in order for a food to be labeled as “gluten-free”. The final product must contain, at most, 20 mg/kg (20 parts per million) gluten or less. However, this rule does not apply to alcohol which can contain gluten. This amount of gluten (20 ppm) will not result in any side effects in a person with celiac disease, since it is too small of an amount. Another way people can be sure that they are consuming gluten-free foods is to call a restaurant ahead of time and ask if they have a gluten-free menu or serve alternatives for people with gluten intolerance. 

Written by: Sofia H. Davila, Clinical Researcher


Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, August 10). Celiac disease. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 17, 2023, from 

NCI Dictionary of Cancer terms. National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2023, from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Eating, diet, & Nutrition for Celiac Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from 


July 11, 2022 BlogCeliac Disease

Celiac disease is one of the major health issues on our planet, affecting around 1% of the population (that’s about 80 million people!). Celiac disease is more likely to occur in females. Though onset can occur at any age, it is most likely to be discovered around age two or during young adulthood.

Celiac disease is commonly known as gluten intolerance and is classically characterized by its gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, and other digestive issues. Additionally, there are other symptoms that are unrelated to the digestive system. These include anemia, bone density issues, neurological symptoms, skin rash, and more. Together these make for a severe detriment in the quality of life of most celiac sufferers.

Like most autoimmune disorders, the leading symptoms come from the body’s immune system overreacting and causing damage. Celiac disease is unusual in that the reason for the immune response is gluten, which we eat. Gluten is a structural protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and kamut. Gluten isn’t fully digestible, and some intact protein pieces make it through the stomach into the intestines. In celiac patients, the protein pieces cross the intestinal lining and are mistaken for dangerous particles or microorganisms. This can trick the immune system into action, causing inflammation and damage.

The number of people with celiac disease has been growing significantly. Five times as many people had the condition in 2000, compared with 1975. Scientists are still unsure why the disease has been growing worldwide. Better clinical testing, a spread of high gluten Mediterranean diets, and new varieties of grain are leading theories. Scientists have been able to discover much of the underlying mechanism of how celiac disease occurs, thankfully. It is genetic, and the key player appears to be HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 antigens which mistake gluten for danger. The presence of HLA-DQ2/DQ8 isn’t enough to guarantee celiac disease, but it is required. Additional contributors are thought to be other genes, environmental factors, and gut microbiota. Regardless, 95% of celiac patients have one of these dangerous antigens.

Currently, the only treatment for celiac is a strict gluten-free diet. This can be difficult to maintain, and even with a gluten-free diet, some patients continue to have symptoms. Additionally, contaminants can be unknowingly present in food and even low amounts of gluten can cause a resurgence of symptoms. Scientists are looking for new ways to combat this disease and participating in clinical trials is the best way that you can help move celiac disease medicine forward.

Written by: Benton Lowey-Ball, B.S. Behavioral Neuroscience


Caio, G., Volta, U., Sapone, A., Leffler, D. A., De Giorgio, R., Catassi, C., & Fasano, A. (2019). Celiac disease: a comprehensive current review. BMC medicine, 17(1), 1-20.


The questions that have many people puzzled are finally going to be answered: What is gluten and is it actually bad for you? Gluten is a mixture of two types of proteins. It is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. These proteins are commonly found in wheat, rye, oats and barley. Gluten helps food keep its shape and acts like a glue that holds certain foods together. 

For those with celiac disease, gluten can be particularly dangerous. Gluten triggers an immune response in people with the disease, resulting in damages in the lining of the small intestine. These damages can obstruct a person’s ability to absorb nutrients from food and lead to problems like osteoporosis, infertility, nerve damage, and seizures.

Adults with celiac disease show many digestive and other symptoms including:

Digestive symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating and gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation

Non-Digestive Symptoms:

  • Iron deficiency causing anemia 
  • Rashes on the skin 
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Corrupt functioning of the spleen (hyposplenism)

Gluten can be found in many different kinds of foods. It may be present in more foods than you think. The main foods to look out for which contain high amounts of gluten are processed foods, such as canned or boxed items, sweets, including cakes, pies and candies, cereals, bread, beer, pasta and more. 

Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease is to completely eradicate gluten from a person’s diet, which can be difficult. In order to help those suffering from this disease, it is imperative to do more research including participating in clinical trials. If you have celiac disease and want to be at the forefront of medicine, click the “enrolling studies” tab for more information about current clinical trials.

Source: Harvard Health, Celiac Disease Foundation 


Gluten Free. This has become a household term. Everyone has heard of gluten free diets, but not everyone comprehends why this distinction is necessary. For people with celiac disease, gluten can be devastating, and it is essential for food labeling to be correct. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. (1) Even ingesting minuscule quantities of gluten, such as crumbs from a toaster, can trigger intestinal damage. This damage can prevent the body from properly absorbing nutrients. Celiac disease is hereditary and is estimated to affect 1% of people worldwide.


There are more than 200 known symptoms of celiac disease, which can make it a nightmare to diagnose. It is estimated that there are 2.5 million undiagnosed Americans. When you mention celiac, most people think of digestive symptoms however, only around one-third of adults with the disorder experience digestive symptoms like diarrhea. Common symptoms include: fatigue, joint pain, arthritis, fatty liver, depression or anxiety, peripheral neuropathy, migraines, canker sores, and skin rash. If left untreated, Celiac disease can lead to many long-term health complications. Unfortunately, the only way to accurately diagnose celiac disease is to have an endoscopic biopsy. Once a diagnosis is made, the challenge of managing the condition begins.


Currently, the only effective treatment for celiac disease is to follow a strict gluten-free diet. However, the future is not bleak. Researchers from around the world are working to find effective pharmaceutical treatments. COUR Pharmaceuticals is researching a drug which aims to reprogram the body’s immune system to tolerate gluten subsequently reversing the signs and symptoms of Celiac disease.(2) Additionally, the Journal of Biological Chemistry notes that scientists have discovered a protein associated with celiac disease can be inactivated, paving the way for new treatment possibilities.(3)



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