Celiac Disease

Gluten Allergy

Gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grains including barley and rye. Gluten gives dough its elasticity, helping it rise and maintain its shape.

“Gluten allergy” is better described as a gluten sensitivity or intolerance and refers to health problems resulting from the adverse effects of gluten.  Gluten sensitivity includes an array of disorders such as celiac disease and wheat allergy.

Celiac Disease

Though many people refer to celiac disease and wheat allergy interchangeably, they are two distinct conditions.  With a wheat allergy, the body produces an antibody in response to the proteins found in wheat.  This antibody leads to allergy symptoms.  With celiac disease, the body hones in on one specific wheat protein—gluten.  In response to the gluten, the body mounts an abnormal immune response that includes inflammation of the small intestines.  Eventually, celiac disease can damage the lining of the small intestines and prevent absorption of vital nourishment for the brain and body.  This is called “malabsorption.” In children, malabsorption can hinder proper development.


Celiac means “abdomen-related.”  People with celiac disease are often simply referred to as “Celiacs.”

Celiac disease occurs in the small intestine.  A healthy small intestine is lined by projections (like little hairs) known as “villi.”  Villi absorbs nourishment from the food you eat.  When someone with celiac disease eats foods containing gluten, their immune system reacts with inflammation of the small intestine that depletes the villi.  When the villi become compromised, the body is less able to absorb important nourishment.

Celiac disease is more common among Caucasian people and may be triggered by stress, surgery, pregnancy and birth, or a viral infection.

Signs of Celiac Disease:

Symptoms of celiac disease vary widely.  Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea are among the most common symptoms, but many people with celiac disease don’t experience these “classic symptoms.”  If you suspect that you have celiac, consult your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Gastrointestinal issues (diarrhea, burping, bloating, acid reflux, heartburn, constipation)
  • Abdominal pain
  • A drop in body weight
  • Delayed growth and development (in children)
  • Constipation
  • Bloating (distended belly in kids)
  • Anemia
  • Loss of bone or softening of bone tissue
  • Skin rash (blisters, itching)
  • Damage to dental enamel
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nervous system problems (poor balance, tingling or loss of sensation in hands and feet)
  • Discomfort or pain in the joints
  • Poorly functioning spleen

Managing celiac disease:

Many celiac turn to a gluten-free diet to avoid the effects of this milk protein.  However, avoiding foods with gluten can make it hard to get a nutritionally-complete diet.  Supplementing with vitamins and minerals can help fill the gaps.  If the intestines are severely inflamed, steroids may be useful in reducing inflammation.

In addition, the AllergyEasy sublingual immunotherapy program has proven successful in helping some Celiacs overcome the effects of the disease.  Sublingual immunotherapy (also known as SLIT) uses an under-the-tongue allergy serum to desensitize the immune system to environmental allergens (pollens, etc.) as well as to reaction-causing food proteins such as gluten.

To discuss the possibility of testing and treatment using sublingual immunotherapy, contact AllergyEasy.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.