Coeliac disease (spelled celiac disease in North America) is an illness which makes people ill if they eat gluten. If someone with coeliac disease eats something with gluten (for example, wheat), cells inside the body attack the lining of the intestine. This means that they cannot digest (eat) food properly, making them unable to have enough energy, vitamins, or minerals. Children may be unable to grow taller or gain weight properly. People with coeliac disease often lose weight. They are also frequently tired.
To relieve the effects of coeliac disease, one must stop eating gluten. There are no medicines that can stop coeliac disease. To get fully better, it usually takes about two years of not eating gluten, during which time the previously damaged intestine might recover.
To find out if a person has coeliac disease, doctors look in the blood to see if they have the cells that attack the intestine when gluten is eaten. The cell that attacks the intestine is called an antibody. Antibodies normally stop illnesses from growing in the body, but in the case of coeliac disease, one of the antibodies thinks that gluten is something that will cause illness. Doctors can also look into the patient's intestines with a camera on a tube called an endoscope. This can show if the intestines are being or have been damaged, because of coeliac disease.