Celiac disease is a digestive disease that interferes with the absorption of nutrients and causes damage to the small intestine. People with Celiac Disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, and which also may be found in products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms.
When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi. Villi are tiny, finger-like protrusions in the small intestine that normally allow nutrients to be absorbed through the small intestine into the bloodstream. People without healthy villi will become malnourished, no matter how much food they eat.
Celiac disease usually runs in the family, but it can also be triggered by events such as surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress.