Celiac Disease: Origin, Symptoms, Treatments

Celiac disease: origin, symptoms, treatments

Celiac disease is a permanent autoinflammatory enteropathy, with autoimmune features, triggered by the ingestion of gluten in genetically predisposed subjects.

Gluten is the alcohol-soluble protein fraction of wheat, barley, and rye. This protein complex, which is therefore mainly found in wheat-based foods such as bread, pasta, pizza, cookies and sweet and savory snacks, causes an abnormal inflammatory response in the small intestine.

The immune response generates chronic inflammation which, in turn, damages the tissues of the intestine and leads to the disappearance of the intestinal villi, which are important for the absorption of nutrients. This happens in a similar way with lactose tolerance, which we discussed in a previous article.

Therefore, a celiac, in addition to direct damage, suffers considerable indirect damage because he cannot absorb nutrients and therefore runs the risk of becoming malnourished.

If not diagnosed early and not treated properly, celiac disease can have significant, even irreversible, consequences.

Celiac disease: origin, symptoms, treatments
Luis Isaias

Some clues from the story

Celiac disease is mentioned for the first time by Aretus of Cappadocia, who in the year 250 AD. he wrote about the koiliakos, “those who suffer in the intestines”.

In 1856, Francis Adams translated this term from Greek to English, coining the expression “celiac”.

A few years later, in 1888, Samuel Gee described the detailed symptoms of this condition in both adults and children, predicting that the only treatment was a proper diet, which he misidentified as potatoes, bananas, and wheat.

In fact, it was only in 1945 that the Dutch pediatrician Willem Karel Dicke identified wheat flour as the agent responsible for the symptoms in celiac children.

At the end of chapter 3 of his thesis Dicke concludes that:

“ if some types of food are replaced in the daily diet, such as wheat and rye, the patient improves;

acute attacks of diarrhea do not occur, provided that these types of foods are not administered;

after a latent period which may vary in length, the deterioration and acute attacks of diarrhea reappear if unpleasant foods are added too soon to the diet.”

In 1953, together with Van de Kamer and Weyers, he subsequently published Celiac Disease IV “An Investigation of the Noxious Components of Wheat in Relation to Their Action on Patients with Celiac Disease.”

According to Dicke, after the famine that devastated northern Europe during World War II and the subsequent forced elimination of gluten from the diet, children with celiac disease presented a sudden improvement in symptoms.

At the end of the war, following food aid that arrived in the Netherlands, consisting mainly of bread and pasta, children diagnosed with celiac disease rapidly revived the gastrointestinal symptoms of celiac disease.

The causes

Celiac disease is a multifactorial disease, for which two factors are required:

  • Gluten
  • Genetic predisposition

Only 3% of the world’s population, carriers of the genetic predisposition and consumers of gluten, develop this pathology throughout their lives. In fact, there are triggering factors, the nature of which is unknown at the moment.

It is believed that some viral infections and the amount of gluten introduced during weaning may play a role, although definitive data do not exist.

Some clues from the story
Luis Isaias

Symptoms, associated diseases and complications

The symptoms with which celiac disease presents are extremely variable.

There are 4 types of shapes:

Classic Shape

Bloating, abdominal pain, weight loss, intestinal malabsorption, slow growth (in children).

«» Atypical

• Tiredness and fatigue, which may be signs of iron deficiency anemia or folate deficiency anemia

•Hair loss (alopecia)

•Weight loss without other cause

•Recurring sores and lesions in the mouth (recurrent oral aphthosis),

•Loss of tooth enamel (hypoplasia)

•Recurring abdominal pain

•The vomit

•Increased plasma level of transaminases

• Menstrual cycle disorders

•Short stature

•Infertility, miscarriage

«» Silent

Absence of symptoms, diagnosed during screening programs.

«» Potential

Characterized by positive serological tests (presence of anti-transglutaminase antibodies) but with a normal intestinal biopsy.

The treatment

The only possible treatment for celiac disease is a very strict and permanent gluten-free diet, which eliminates symptoms and replenishes intestinal tissues, usually within 6 to 18 months of diagnosis.

Following a gluten-free diet means changing your lifestyle and eliminating all foods made from wheat and barley flour.

Meat, vegetables, rice and corn, legumes, vegetables, fruits, potatoes do not contain gluten and therefore can easily enter the celiac diet.

There are many substitute foods on the market, which carry the specific wording gluten-free – specially formulated for celiacs/gluten intolerant, produced by replacing wheat with a naturally gluten-free cereal or swallowed with chemical and/or physical methods, which are tolerated by celiacs .

The products that carry this declaration and that are included in the National Food Registry of the Ministry of Health, can be purchased through the free distribution rate that the National Health System recognizes for all celiacs and whose amount varies depending on sex and the age.

According to the National Health System, celiac disease is:

“Celiac disease, or celiac disease, is a permanent inflammatory disease of the small intestine, characterized by the destruction of the mucous membrane of this intestinal tract.”

The treatment
Luis Isaias

Also, keep in mind that gluten can be “hidden” in food, where it is added as an additive.

If any of these foods is made without adding gluten as an additive and/or taking care not to contaminate the packaged product with gluten during the production chain, it will bear the nutritional declaration on the label:

“Gluten-free – suitable for coeliacs”.

The Italian Association of Celiac Patients and some institutional health sites provide detailed information on which products are allowed and which are prohibited on the gluten-free diet.

According to this association:

“Some gluten protein fragments can be detected by the immune system and trigger an adverse inflammatory, allergic or autoimmune reaction. These gluten fragments are generically called prolamines and are subdivided into gliadins and glutenins.”


Celiac disease is a disease above all that in recent years is becoming increasingly popular. As we have seen, it is a disease that:

  • Does not allow the intake of wheat
  • affects a large part of the population
  • Treatments/remedies have been found that allow you to maintain a “normal” life.

Thanks to the help of science it was possible to achieve all this, finding a solution for those who are “celiac”.