Celiac disease involves an autoimmune gut reaction to gluten proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. This reaction destroys the intestinal villi. Villi are the finger-like projections that line the small intestine, increasing the surface area of the intestine so that absorption of nutrients can be maximized. When the villi are destroyed, nutrient absorption is hindered, which can lead to serious health complications.

How serious? The autoimmune reaction of celiac (basically, the immune systems mistakes parts of the body as a foreign invader, and attacks the body’s own tissues) can lead to other autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid dysfunction.

A recent study has determined that the incidence of celiac disease has doubled every year since 1974, and it also increases with age. If people can develop celiac disease in their 50s and 60s, it indicates that the condition is likely caused by environmental factors.

One important possible environmental trigger of the disease that may be causing late-onset celiac is changes in the composition of gut bacteria. Researchers suggested that a greater understanding of these changes in the gut may allow for the development of a way to keep the disease on hold.

Our gut health is truly related to the health of the rest of the body. Start by healing your gut, and maintaining that health to build a strong foundation that the rest of the body can benefit from, well into our golden years.