Celiac disease is a disorder that damages your small intestine and keeps it from absorbing the nutrients in food. The damage to your intestinal tract is caused by your immune system’s reaction to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Some oats contain gluten.
When you have celiac disease, gluten causes your immune system to damage or destroy villi. Villi are the tiny, fingerlike tubules that line your small intestine. The villi’s job is to get food nutrients to the blood through the walls of your small intestine. If villi are destroyed, you may become malnourished, no matter how much you eat. This is because you aren’t able to absorb nutrients. Complications of the disorder include anemia, seizures, joint pain, thinning bones, and cancer.