Celiac Disease Is Different
Celiac disease (also called celiac sprue) isn't an immune reaction to gluten, the protein in wheat and other grains, it's a genetic autoimmune disease caused by gluten. The presence of this protein triggers the immune response and your body attacks the villi, or cells, lining the small intestine, causing inflammation.
This can lead to malnutrition as well as other painful symptoms like vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. People who have this disease must avoid grains that have gluten, including wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats. There is no cure.
Gliadin Is the Culprit
Gluten is made up of two main proteins, called glutenin and gliadin. If you have celiac disease, your body reacts to the gliadin protein by creating antibodies against an enzyme called tissue transglutaminase, or tTG. This causes the villi on the intestine lining to flatten. The reaction may even destroy the villi, and also causes inflammation.
Some health practitioners believe that “leaky gut” leads to food allergies and celiac disease. This theory is unproven and is not scientifically defined. There may be some conditions that result from your intestine inappropriately allowing substances through the intestinal wall, but food allergies are not believed to be caused by this malady.
The best way to diagnose celiac disease is with a biopsy of the small intestine, which shows the damage to the villi and mucosa caused by the immune system overreaction. Or you can have a series of four blood tests, including testing for IgA, IgG, antigliadin antibodies, and antiendomysial antibodies. All of the tests should be run for the most accurate diagnosis, since the body's reaction to other diseases can create tTG antibodies, for instance.
If you have celiac disease, the kinds of grains you can safely consume vary widely from person to person. Unfortunately, cross-contamination among grains is very common. This contamination can range from grains growing in adjacent fields to mills processing more than one type of grain.
Once again, it's hidden sources of gluten that can cause problems. Processed grains that a celiac patient could normally eat, like oats, can, if grown next to a field of wheat, contain gluten proteins. Gluten can also be found in foods like soy sauce and rice cereal.