To understand and therefore answer the question "What is celiac disease?".....it's importantto first understand that celiac disease is just one form of gluten intolerance.
Well, celiac disease is a result of the damaging of the villi (singlular villous) in the small intestine. This condition is known as Villous atrophy, and it is what primarily defines Celiac Disease.
Villi are microscopic finger-like projections on the surface of the small intestine that are responsible for efficient absorption of the nutrients that feed our body.
In a person with celiac disease, the villi are blunted or flattened, therefore making the surface of the small intestine much smaller and unable to absorb nutrients efficiently.
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease - meaning that the disease causes the body's immune system to attack itself.
Some people will still exhibit gluten intolerance symptoms although they may not have tested positive for celiac.
It's In Your Genes
This Gluten Intolerance is also a genetic condition, meaning relatives of celiacs or those with gluten intolerance have a higher likelihood of developing the condition.
Although many people, including celiac experts use the terms celiac disease and gluten intolerance interchangeably, celiac disease is only one form of gluten intolerance.
Gluten allergy and gluten intolerance are also used interchangeably from the layman's perspective.
The take away here is that if you get tested for celiac disease and you "fail" the test, that does not mean you are not gluten intolerant or allergic to gluten.
Celiac disease, if left untreated, can be a dangerous disease with wide ranging effects. It's imperative to work with your doctor if you suspect any of the various celiac disease symptoms.
For me, the difference was like night and day.
This does not mean I self-diagnosed, it means I took my own well being into my own hands.
Does it really matter that a doctor tells you you don't have celiac disease if you continue to suffer symptoms whenever you eat as much as a bagel? Obviously that's your judgment call.
Celiac sprue is just another name for celiac disease. Other names or phrases that you might see in reference to Celiac are:
Despite the high number of estimated celiac disease sufferers (1 in 133) experts believe that many celiacs are undiagonosed or under-diagnosed.
Therefore, out of this roughly 3 million people (in the US alone), it is estimated that 10% do not even know they have Celiac. This is because the symptoms of Celiac Disease can mimic those of so many other diseases, and testing for this malady still leaves many people without a clear diagnosis.