Celiac Disease (Non-Tropical Sprue)
What Is It?
Celiac disease (also called non-tropical sprue, celiac sprue, gluten intolerance and gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is an intestinal disorder in which the body cannot tolerate gluten. Gluten is a natural protein in many grains, including wheat, barley, rye and oats.
People with celiac disease have an immune reaction that is triggered by gluten. The immune reaction causes inflammation at the surface of the small intestine where it damages small structures - villi - on the surface of the intestine. It also damages smaller, hair-sized protrusions called microvilli. Healthy villi and microvilli are needed for normal digestion. When they are damaged, the intestine cannot absorb nutrients properly and you can become malnourished.
A tendency to develop celiac disease is genetic (inherited). Celiac disease is most common among people of northern European descent. Celiac disease is not always recognized because the symptoms can be mild and can be wrongly blamed upon other common intestinal issues. Celiac disease can be diagnosed at any age.