Celiac/Coeliac, Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH), Wheat/Gluten-Free

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Feedback to the Listowners, Disclaimer, Copyright , Updated 28 August 2012

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What is Celiac Disease and the Gluten-Free Diet

The CELIAC (Celiac/Coeliac Wheat/Gluten-Free List) is open, unmoderated discussion for those interested in celiac disease (coeliac sprue), dermatitis herpetiformis, gluten intolerance, wheat allergy, and co-incident intolerances, such as casein or lactose intolerance.

The List's discussions include the latest scientific research (written for the layperson); information on what food is gluten free and what is not; tips on how to eat out of the house, how to cope issues, including coping with the developmental delays and behavioral changes sometimes brought on or aggravated by gluten (Autism, Asperger's, Attention Deficit, etc.); recipes and tips on how to cook; and where to find gluten free food by mail-order.

Celiac disease (CD) is used to reference the general requirement to avoid gluten in the diet. The terms replaced are: celiac sprue, coeliac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), and gluten sensitive enteropathy (GSE). Diseases that can be associated with celiac disease include lactose intolerance, dermatitis herpetiformis, insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), systemic lupus erythematosus, thyroid disease, and autoimmune disorders. Except for direct quotations and medical reference to a disease, CD is the universal term used. Outside the US, the term is often spelled as coeliac.

Gluten is a general term used to describe the toxic protein found in certain grains or their by-products. The major grains that are avoided are: wheat, rye, oats, and barley.

In 250 A.D., Galen, a Roman physician, described childhood and adult celiac disease. In 1888, Samuel Gee described celiac disease in Britain and the role of diet in its control. Dicke in the Netherlands during 1950 suggested that certain dietary cereal grains were harmful to children with celiac disease. He also noted that persons previously diagnosed with celiac disease improved during World War II when grain products were in short supply. When grains became more plentiful after the war, the incidence of celiac disease returned to its pre-war levels. In 1954, Paulley first described the intestinal lesion, villus atrophy, in patients with celiac disease. Cyrus L. Rubin and co-workers in the United States demonstrated in 1958 that celiac disease in children and adults were identical disorders. In the 1980's, Michael Marsh and co- workers in Manchester, England, emphasized the role of the immune system in causing intestinal injury in celiac disease.

Imagine if you could never have a sandwich, or piece of birthday cake without it making you ill. That is what it is like to have celiac disease.

One in 133 people in the U.S has celiac disease.

This is a disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged in response to ingestion of gluten and similar proteins, which are found in wheat, rye, oats, barley, and other grains including hybrid grains such as triticale.

The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown. The development of celiac disease requires a genetically predisposed person who is eating wheat, rye, oats, or barley. Even if these two factors are present, celiac disease may not develop until a "trigger factor" starts the abnormal immune system response. Sometimes, a viral illness appears to be that "trigger." Celiac disease causes the intestine's villi to become flattened and lose the ability to absorb nutrients. Weight loss, anemia, and vitamin deficiencies may occur as a result of the malabsorption (inadequate absorption of nutrients from the intestinal tract). After exposure to gluten, intestinal damage may develop within a few months or may be postponed for several years.

Because the exact cause is unknown, there is no way known to prevent the development of celiac disease. However, awareness of risk factors (such as a family member with the disorder) may increase the chance of early diagnosis and treatment.

Recently developed screening blood tests can help your doctor diagnose this disease. It's necessary to have these blood tests before you start a gluten free-diet. If you have dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy, blistery skin problem), you have celiac disease. The diagnosis is confirmed with a biopsy obtained through an endoscopic tube that is put into your intestines.

Total withdrawal of gluten from the diet permits the intestinal mucosa to heal and results in a disappearance of the symptoms of celiac disease. Initially, irritability goes away and appetite improves, usually within a matter of days following withdrawal of dietary gluten. Over a matter of weeks, weight gain resumes and diarrhea decreases. Several months later, growth in height returns as abdominal swelling disappears. Blood tests eventually come back to normal, too. These improvements in overall health and appearance of an affected person occur long before there has been healing of the intestinal damage.

To obtain a comprehensive understanding of celiac disease, please read our collection of initial celiac disease information files

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Subscribing to the CELIAC List:

The Listowners invite you to join 3400 fellow celiacs from the following 33 countries, as of Feb 4 2006, in ongoing discussions about a Gluten-Free diet:

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Send a subscription message to: CELIAC-subscribe-request@LISTSERV.ICORS.ORG:

Each List has an unique personality and for those not familiar with LISTSERV(R) operations, you may desire to read the welcome message.

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Contacting the CELIAC Listowners:

Your feedback on this site and the Celiac List is appreciated. If the desired information was not obtained from the reference files or the logfiles, please submit a question to one of these Listowners. We cannot furnished medical diagnosis, as that is appropriate only when obtained from your personal physician.