Digestive disorder in which people cannot tolerate gluten, a protein constituent of wheat, barley, malt, and rye flours. In celiac disease, gluten generates an immune response that damages the mucous lining of the small intestine; it is believed that a deficiency of gluten-digesting enzymes may underlie the disease. Poor nutrient absorption causes foul, bulky, fatty stools; malnutrition; stunting of growth; and anemia similar to pernicious anemia. It can run in families. Children begin having intermittent intestinal upset, diarrhea, and wasting at 6–21 months. In adults it usually begins after 30, with appetite loss, depression, irritability, and diarrhea. Symptoms in advanced cases stem from nutritional deficiencies and may require supportive measures. A high-protein diet low in glutens and saturated fats usually relieves symptoms.
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