What causes Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is caused by an abnormal immune system reaction to the protein gluten, which is found in foods such as bread, pasta, cereals and biscuits. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in your small intestine. Over time, this reaction damages your small intestine’s lining and prevents it from absorbing some nutrients (malabsorption)

Some of the factors associated with an increased risk of developing this disease are outlined below.

Family history

Celiac disease is a genetic disease that runs in families. If you have a parent or sibling with coeliac disease your risk of developing the condition is about 10 times higher than someone without a family history. Coeliac disease is strongly associated with the presence of certain genes called HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8. Either one or both genes are present in almost every person with coeliac disease.

These genes are very common in people in Australia. Around 56% of the population carries either one or both genes. This suggests there is a further trigger needed for coeliac disease to develop.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors may trigger coeliac disease at any age in people who carry the genes for the disease. Factors thought to play a role include:

  • a previous gastrointestinal infection (such as a rotavirus infection), or
  • a person’s diet during early childhood.

Other health conditions

Health conditions associated with an increased risk of developing coeliac disease include:

  • type 1 diabetes
  • ulcerative colitis
  • neurological disorders such as epilepsy
  • thyroid disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Addison’s disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Turner syndrome (a condition in which a female is missing an X chromosome)
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy
  • IgA nephropathy
  • Lupus
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Scleroderma
  • Williams syndrome
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Intestinal lymphoma
  • Intestinal cancer

It’s worth noting that, coeliac disease can be triggered by other factors, such as viral infections, pregnancy, childbirth, and certain medications.

Additionally, it’s important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause of coeliac disease and develop an appropriate treatment plan, which is a strict gluten-free diet.