Celiac disease is also called celiac sprue, non-tropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. It is a hereditary autoimmune condition in which a person has a delayed immune reaction to gluten (a protein that causes dough to be sticky) found in cereals, such as wheat, barley, and rye. This reaction causes the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine, damaging it so that it can't absorb nutrients from food.
Celiac disease affects almost 1% of people in Canada. Recent research has revealed that, contrary to what was previously believed, celiac disease may be just as common in places like Africa, South America, and Asia. The disease affects 10% of first-degree relatives and is about twice as common in women as in men.