What Is The Cause Of Celiac Disease?

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What is the cause of Celiac disease became a concern when one of our sons was diagnosed with it.

Another reason this topic is important to us is that we also have a type 1 diabetic grandson.

What does that have to do with it?

It seems that people with one auto-immune disease such as type 1 diabetes (T1D) have a higher chance of developing a second one…

… and…

… celiac is a common one.

Having a family member diagnosed with each of these has created some unique challenges when cooking family dinners.

So for those reasons let’s learn about celiac disease.

What causes it?

Is there a cure?

What are the treatments?

How is it linked to diabetes?

What is Celiac Disease?What Is The Cause Of Celiac Disease? - Villi in the small intestind are damaged

Celiac is a serious long-term auto-immune disease where the ingestion of gluten causes damage within the small intestine.

Celiac disease affects approximately 1 in 100 people worldwide.

An estimated 2 1/2 million Americans are undiagnosed and at risk for long-term health complications.

When people who have celiac disease eat gluten, their body attacks the small intestine. When this damage occurs it affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Celiac disease is hereditary, meaning that it can be passed down through a first-degree relative (parent, child, sibling).

We are a blended family, and our son inherited the celiac disease from his bio father, in fact, most of that side of the family has it.

With that kind of family medical history, it was no great surprise when he was diagnosed with it.

What causes celiac disease?

Most of us are well aware that our immune system is designed to protect our bodies from foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses.

When people who have celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune systems attack the lining of the small intestine.

This causes inflammation and swelling in the intestines which damages the villi. Villi are small finger-like projections that line the small intestine and it is their job to absorb the nutrients from food.

When the villi are damaged, a person can’t effectively absorb nutrients and has a high probability of becoming malnourished, regardless of how much they eat.

Celiac disease can develop at any age although most are diagnosed between the ages of 40 -60.

Our son was only 30 when he was diagnosed just a couple of years ago.

Symptoms of celiac disease

The symptoms of celiac disease can vary among sufferers and may include:

  • No symptoms (can be the case with some family members of celiac patients)
  • Digestive issues (abdominal bloating, gas, pain, constipation, diarrhea, pale stools and weight loss)
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (severe blistering skin rash) and mouth sores (aphthous ulcers)
  • Unexplained anemia (low blood count) or hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)
  • Musculoskeletal problems (muscle cramps, joint and bone pain) and damage to dental enamel
  • Failure to thrive in children (due to malnutrition)
  • Tingling in legs (due to nerve damage and low calcium)
  • Depression


Doctors can frequently make a diagnosis after considering family history, as well as ordering blood tests, genetic tests and biopsies.

They will check for the presence of certain antibodies common in people who have celiac disease.

If some tests indicate celiac disease, the doctor may perform an intestinal biopsyWhat Is The Cause Of Celiac Disease - blood tests.

They would perform several of these to increase the accuracy of the findings.

It is important for doctors to confirm the diagnosis because celiac disease often shares symptoms with other conditions such as:

  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s disease of the small intestine
  • lactose intolerance
  • gluten intolerance
  • small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
  • pancreatic insufficiency

Celiac disease is chronic, there is no cure and requires continuous, regular follow-up with your primary care physician.

Other conditions that can accompany celiac disease

People with celiac disease often  develop other health problems which can include:

  • Malnutrition
  • Osteoporosis ( a skeletal disorder characterized by low bone mass and bone fragility)
  • Infertility
  • Cancer of the intestine (very rare)

While Celiac does not cause them, there is also an increased risk of developing other auto-immune diseases including:

  • Thyroid disease or liver disease
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome (affects the body’s moisture-producing glands)
  • auto-immune liver disorders
  • no symptoms

Dietary ChangesWhat Is The Cause Of Celiac Disease? - gluten-free diet

Once diagnosed, celiac patients are recommended to follow a strict gluten-free diet for life.

A gluten-free diet can be challenging and your doctor will likely refer you to a dietician for help identifying all sources of gluten.

Many products can contain hidden gluten such as toothpaste and many other processed products.

So now that we know we have to eliminate gluten we need to understand…

What is gluten?

Gluten is a general term used to describe the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and some other grains.

Gluten helps foods maintain their shape acting as a glue.

It can be found in many types of foods even ones you would never suspect, this makes it imperative to always check labels before purchasing and consuming food.

What should celiac patients eat?

There are plenty of food choices that do not contain gluten such as:

  • meat and fish
  • fruits and vegetables
  • some grains such as rice, amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat
  • cereals such as corn, millet, sorghum, and heff
  • pasta, bread, baked goods and other products that are labelled gluten-free

According to Beyond Celiac, some varieties of cheese that are usually gluten-free include:

  • brie
  • Cheddar
  • Swiss
  • Parmesan
  • provolone
  • feta
  • goat
  • ricotta

Always read labels for making a purchase.

You can eliminate gluten in many favourite family recipes by substituting ingredients and altering cooking times and sometimes temperatures.

Gluten-free recipesWhat Is The Cause Of Celiac Disease? - gluten free baking

I sent my son gluten-free peanut butter cookies at Christmas time and he loved them.

In fact, when I baked them, my husband smelled the baking and ate a couple of cookies. He had no idea they were gluten-free and was quite surprised when I told him.

I am a big fan of foil-wrapped dinners, in winter I pop them in the oven and throughout the summer I cook them on the grill, especially when we are out on the boat.

I will share some of our favourite recipes to help you get started.


  • When I make the foil packs I make 1 per person and usually serve it with a fresh garden salad.
  • Sometimes I bake the cookies with white and brown Stevia sugar replacement when I want a low carb, zero sugar snack for my type 1 diabetic grandson. I use a 1 to 1 replacement and it works out well.

Fajita Chicken


1 chicken breast                                  3 Tbsp salsa

1/2 red pepper, sliced                          1 Tbsp Mexican cheese blend

1/2 yellow pepper, sliced                     1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 red onion, sliced                            salt & pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Fold foil in half then open up
  3. Thinly slice peppers and onion and lay them on one half of the foil
  4. Drizzle on oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper
  5. Lay chicken on peppers, season with salt & pepper and spoon on salsa, then top with cheese
  6. Fold foil over and seal
  7. Bake 25 – 30 minutes

Make 1 foil pack per person.

Garlic Parmesan Chicken


1 chicken breast                           2 Tbsp butter

1/2 zucchini, sliced                       2 Tbsp parmesan

1 clove garlic, minced                   salt & pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Fold foil in half then open up
  3. Slice zucchini into rounds and lay on one half of the foil
  4. Mix garlic and butter, spoon half over zucchini
  5. Sprinkle with salt & pepper
  6. Lay chicken on zucchini, season with salt & pepper. Spoon rest of garlic and butter over chicken and top with parmesan
  7. Seal and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.

Gluten-free peanut butter cookies


1 1/4 cup gluten-free flour blend                     1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 tsp baking powder                                     1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp baking soda                                         1/2 cup peanut butter

1/4 tsp salt                                                       1 egg, well-beaten

1/2 cup butter, softened


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and place rack in center of oven.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar gradually creaming after each addition until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
  5. Add the flour mixture gradually beating after each addition until smooth.
  6. Drop mixture 1 tsp at a time 2″ apart onto greased cookie sheet. Dip fork in gluten-free flour and press cookies criss-cross,
  7. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until cookies are just set and the edges are just barely beginning to brown. Don’t overtake or they won’t be chewy.


Final thoughts

What Is The Cause Of Celiac Disease? - gluten free product labels

Thanks to my son Jon, I now have a better understanding of what is the cause of celiac disease.

We have learned that it is an auto-immune disease.

Celiac disease has no cure and is chronic requiring continuous follow-up care with your physician.

You will need to work with a dietician to learn how to follow a strict gluten-free diet for life.

There are still plenty of flavourful recipes you can enjoy and even baked treats made with some alterations.

Always read labels as a lot of products contain hidden gluten, even toothpaste.

Having celiac disease means you are at a higher risk of developing other auto-immune disorders.

I have shared some of our favourite recipes that we all enjoy.

Do you know anyone living with celiac disease?

Do you have favourite food tips you would like to share?

Leave your suggestions in the comment section below.

I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences. We are affiliates, this means that if you purchase something from a link or ad on this site we may receive a small commission. This in no way affects the price you pay.

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6 thoughts on “What Is The Cause Of Celiac Disease?”

  1. Thank you so much for this incredibly insightful article, Deborah! Two of my younger cousins have Type 1 Diabetes, and one believes that he may be at a particularly high risk for Celiac Disease (he is exhibiting a few telltale signs, such as digestive issues, sudden anemia and leg tingling). He is certainly going to get an official diagnosis from his doctor. I find that many gluten-free foods taste better (and are much healthier) than their gluten-filled alternatives; gluten-free food seems to taste much richer (there’s no sugar to overwhelm our taste buds. Haha), it’s more filling, and it gives you much more energy! I would encourage everyone to give gluten-free food a try. You have explained Celiac Disease beautifully, and I will certainly pass this article along to my cousins! Great read! God bless you!

    • Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment. I am sorry to hear you have 2 family members living with T1D. I definitely encourage the one with celiac symptoms to get tested as soon as possible. As for non-celiac people eating gluten-free, it is not recommended as they may be lacking many essential nutrients. Anyone following a gluten-free diet should also be taking supplements to ensure they don’t lack any nutrients. One key distinction is that gluten-free does not necessarily mean sugar-free. I sincerely hope your cousin does not have celiac. Best wishes to all of you.

  2. Omgoodness thank you for the recipes! They sound great and healthy even for those who don’t have any medical problems. I can’t wait to try them out! I am always looking for great diabetic friendly recipes!

    How do you cook on the boat? Do you have an oven(on the boat)?

    I am thinking that the chicken recipes also sound great for camping which we will be doing this summer!

    • Thanks for dropping by Brianna.
      Those recipes are great for anyone. They are quick and simple and full of flavour.
      As for cooking on the sailboat, that can be challenging at times.
      She has a single burner alcohol stove that my husband converted to propane, there is also a propane grill off the starboard side of the boat.
      I cook the foil packs in the grill and that eliminates heating the cabin with cooking.
      In previous years I have cooked them on a grill over an open pit fire in a campground and it worked out well.
      Check back frequently, I love sharing diabetic and celiac-friendly recipes.
      Take care.

  3. Hi Deborah!
    I like your text and the overall site in general which helps people with many health problems who need a solution and advice.
    Celiac disease is an insidious disease in the sense that it is difficult to detect and can create serious problems in the body. I will share my personal experience. Namely, my father felt digestive problems, weakness, and bone pain for a long time, but he attributed it to other conditions. He did many tests with many doctors, but for years they could not find the cause of his pain. Quite by accident, I came across a text, similar to yours, and told him to be tested for gluten. The result was gluten intolerance! After this knowledge, my father changed his diet, introduced more fruits and vegetables, and fish, and threw out bread. Occasionally I make him gluten-free unleavened bread and he is much better. This disease is not terrible only it takes perseverance and determination to change the diet. Thanks for the recipe, I will definitely prepare these delicious cookies for him as well.
    Keep helping people!

    • Thanks for dropping by Danijela.
      I agree Celiac is difficult to detect. Our son struggled for years with digestive issues.
      It was only because we found out about his bio family having celiac that we decided to investigate that route.
      Thankfully we got a diagnosis and made the necessary diet changes.
      He lives a much more comfortable and active life now.
      Thank you for sharing your story and I am glad your Dad is doing much better since changing his own diet.
      Those cookies are quite good, my husband couldn’t tell the difference.
      Take care.


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