According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, it is "a disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, and barley."
If gluten exposure is prolonged, the small hairlike villi of the small intestine are destroyed via an immune attack, preventing the absorption of any nutrients or vitamins.
An estimated 3 million people in the United States have celiac disease, however, 97 percent of those afflicted are not aware that their symptoms are related to the disorder. This is because the disease manifests itself in numerous ways, making it challenging to diagnose.
Symptoms, which vary from abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, muscle cramps, reproductive problems, behavioral changes, skin rashes, fatigue and anemia, often make it difficult to relate directly to celiac disease.
For more information on celiac disease, or to attend a NCFA cooking spree in your area, log on to http://www.celiaccentral.org.