An estimated 1.6 million Americans are currently following a gluten free diet, though many have never been diagnosed with celiac sprue (also known as celiac disease). Patients commonly ask me about celiac sprue and gluten free diets, so I will try to answer some of these questions. The first question I get is what is celiac sprue or celiac disease.
What is celiac sprue?
In celiac sprue, the ingestion of gluten causes inflammatory damage to the lining of the small intestine. Gluten is a protein, very common in our diet, found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. (Ed. note - see this chart from the NIDDK that shows other ingredients and items that may contain gluten.) In people with celiac sprue, the usually large absorptive surface of the small intestine is flattened from damage, significantly limiting its ability to absorb nutrients.
Though celiac sprue is estimated to affect approximately 1.8 million Americans, many are unaware they have the disease.
What are the symptoms of celiac sprue?
Celiac sprue causes a variety of symptoms. They can range in intensity from very mild to debilitating. Some of the most common signs and symptoms are:.