What is Celiac Sprue?

Celiac Sprue is considered an autoimmune disorder which simply means that the body’s immune system turns on itself and damages the small intestine where the most crucial part of digestion takes place. During normal digestion, it is the small intestine’s job to absorb nutrients in food, however Celiac Sprue interferes with that process causing those who have it to be unable to process foods with gluten in them.

The Problem With Gluten

The protein gluten is usually found in wheat, barley, rye and occasionally oat products and, if it is digested, the immune system responds by damaging the villi in the small intestine. Villi are the tiny hair-like projections that line the inside wall of the small intestine helping nutrients pass into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, these nutrients are transported to various parts of the body helping to keep the body working properly. If the villi are unable to do their job it can cause malnourishment even if you are eating healthy foods.

There is still a lot of research being done on Celiac Sprue, but studies are showing that it may be a genetic problem. It can remain inactive for a long time, only becoming active if there are extreme health problems or severe stress. While most people in America have never even heard of Celiac Sprue it is very common in Europe and those of European descent or who have immune system disorders are at higher risk for developing Celiac Sprue.

Symptoms can vary but can include:

  • Frequent bloating and pain in the abdomen
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Bone pain
  • Behavior changes
  •  Muscle cramps
  • Seizures
  • Tingling or numbness in legs

If you notice any of these symptoms its important to talk with your gastroenterologist to make sure you do not have Celiac Sprue. If it’s not treated immediately it can cause other medical problems like malnutrition, lactose intolerance, osteoporosis, or neurological conditions. If you are diagnosed with Celiac Sprue your gastroenterologist will be able to answer any questions you have and can help you understand which foods are ok and which foods to avoid.

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