What Happens In Celiac Disease?
In an individual with a healthy digestive system, food that has been broken down in the stomach and duodenum passes through the small intestines, where finger-like folds (villi) absorb the essential nutrients.
When a celiac patient consumes food containing gluten, the intestine responds to the food as if it were a foreign body, and produces an immune reaction causing inflammatory damage to the villi. This in turn leads to the shortening or blunting and flattening of villi, thus impairing their ability to absorb nutrients. This is referred to as villous atrophy. Depending on its severity, it may be classified as partial, sub-total or total villous atrophy. Untreated celiac disease can cause weight loss and wasting, which along with malabsorption and malnutrition leads to variable, complex and serious effects as the disease progresses.
Celiac disease can therefore, be referred to as a malabsorption syndrome.