Gluten allergy, also known as celiac disease, is an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the lining of the small intestine. The reaction is triggered by the ingestion of foods containing gluten, such as rye, barley and wheat. The lining of the intestines, normally full of small folds called villi, become blunted in this disease. As a result, the small intestine's ability to absorb nutrients is significantly impaired. This leads to the passage of more undigested food into the colon, which can lead to abdominal pain or bloating, diarrhea/loose stools and increased flatulence. This decreased absorption can also lead to vitamin and iron deficiencies and ultimately malnourishment and weight loss.
There is a fairly specific blood test that is used to detect the antibodies that are formed in celiac disease. The gold standard for diagnosis, however, is an upper endoscopy in which a biopsy
of the first portion of the small intestine (duodenum) is sampled in order to detect the characteristic flattening of the villi.
If you have any questions or concerns about celiac disease, you should consult with your primary care doctor
, who can then refer you to a gastroenterologist
if the diagnosis is uncertain.