Definition and characteristics
Celiac disease is an immune-mediated enteropathy triggered by the ingestion of gluten in genetically susceptible individuals 1. This disease causes atrophy of the small intestine villi lining, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. The prevalence of the disease in the general population is estimated to be approximately 1%, being more frequent in women and children 2. However, it is even higher in high-risk groups, such as pediatric patients with type 1 diabetes, reaching up to 4.2% in this group 3.
Symptoms and associated diseases
Celiac disease not only affects the intestine, it is a systemic disease that can cause injuries to the skin, joints, brain and other organs. The onset of symptoms is generally gradual and can appear months or even years after the introduction of gluten in the diet.
The main gastrointestinal symptoms are diarrhea, flatulence, weight loss, abdominal bloating, mood swings, etc.
However, there are also extra-intestinal symptoms that affect the mouth, skin, nervous system, joints, liver, endocrine system, female reproductive system, and blood; the most common being iron deficiency anemia 4.
Therefore, celiac disease appears in the spectrum of a wide range of symptoms, which together with a reduction of gluten consumption for different reasons (trends, suspicions of intolerances, etc.) makes its early diagnosis more complicated.
Currently, the only effective treatment for celiac disease is lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet 5.
Patients must therefore be strong-willed and responsibly choose gluten-free foods, avoiding all possible sources of contamination. Not surprisingly, a high proportion of patients involuntarily or consciously consume gluten 6, given that it is found in more than 50% of solid food products, as an ingredient or additive.
Although nowadays there is no pharmacological treatment for celiac patients, several clinical trials are being conducted with the aim of evaluating potential therapies 5.