Celiac disease is also called Coeliac, Gluten Enteropathy Non-tropical Sprue. or Celiac Sprue.


Celiac Disease Definition

Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that causes an immune reaction from gluten exposure. This leads to damaged villi in the small intestine and interferes with the bodies ability to digest and absorb nutrients.



What is celiac infographic


What is Celiac

Celiac is an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the small intestine which inhibits the absorption of nutrients.


People with celiac disease experience a systemic autoimmune response when they ingest gluten; a protein found in foods like wheat, barley and rye. 


  •  The body attacks itself when gluten is digested.
  •  Celiac is a chronic, life long autoimmune disease.
  •  Celiac disease is the only autoimmune disease where the trigger is known.



What Causes Celiac Disease

Celiac is a hereditary disorder and the risk of developing celiac disease is increased by having certain genetic variants.


Celiac disease runs in families and the genes for celiac can be passed down genetically. However, many people who have the genes for celiac will never be positive for celiac disease. 


Both genetic and environmental factors determine whether celiac genes lead to active celiac disease.


According to the celiac disease foundation; having a parent, child or sibling with celiac means you have a 1 in 10 chance of getting the disease yourself.


To develop celiac disease a person must: 

  • Consume gluten proteins
  • Be a carrier of celiac genes
  • Experience a trigger that begins celiac autoimmune response


What Triggers Celiac Disease

Gluten is the trigger for each harmful autoimmune response in celiac disease. 


What triggers celiac disease graphic




What Triggers Celiac Disease to Begin 

Some people are born with active celiac disease, but many people carry the gene and don’t develop celiac disease for decades until it is triggered by a stressor.


Factors that can trigger the initial onset of celiac disease are stressors like pregnancy, illness, trauma, surgery, menopause, and possibly even viral infections. 



My Story: My celiac disease was triggered around age 27 when I went through radiation, chemotherapy and multiple surgeries to treat stage IIIc colorectal cancer. It’s difficult to know what exactly triggered my celiac disease because radiation, chemotherapy and a surgery are each capable of triggering celiac alone.

How Common Is Celiac Disease

• Celiac can occur in people of all ages and is now frequently being diagnosed later in life. 

• The Celiac Disease Foundation estimates that about 1 in 100 people worldwide will develop celiac disease.

• “It is one of the most common lifelong disorders, affecting approximately 1% of the general population.” (Source: ncbi.gov)