What is celiac disease

The clinical picture

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a chronic systemic disease that is based on a lifelong intolerance to the adhesive protein gluten or the sub-fraction gliadin. Gluten / gliadin occurs in the grain types wheat, spelled, rye, barley and in commercial oats, as well as in the old wheat varieties Einkorn, Emmer and Kamut® (Khorasan wheat).
In healthy people, the ingested food is broken down into its components in the small intestine and enters the body through the mucous membrane. In order to obtain the largest possible surface for nutrient absorption, the intestine is lined with many folds, the so-called villi.
In people with celiac disease, the intake of gluten leads to inflammation in the intestinal mucosa. As a result, the villi regress. As the surface area of ​​the small intestine is reduced, not enough nutrients can be absorbed. In the course of the disease, nutrient deficiencies arise, which can trigger a number of the complaints. However, some of the symptoms are probably also caused by inflammatory processes independent of nutrient deficits. Since celiac disease is not limited to the intestines, it is also viewed more as a disease of the entire body, i.e. a systemic disease.

How does celiac disease develop?

Hereditary factors play an important role in celiac disease, but the immune system, infections, diet and environmental factors also seem to influence the development of the disease. The complex relationships have not yet been fully clarified.

How common is celiac disease and at what age can it break out?

Until a few years ago it was assumed that on average about one in 1,000 to 2,000 people in Germany is affected by celiac disease. However, recent studies show that the frequency is actually around 1: 100. Celiac disease is only present in 10 to 20% of those affected. 80 to 90% have atypical or no symptoms and therefore often do not know anything about their disease. In principle, the disease can break out at any age. However, two frequency peaks are observed: the first is between the ages of 1 and 8, the second between the ages of 20 and 50.