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Because of the known genetic component, relatives of patients with celiac disease are considered at higher risk for the disorder.Because celiac disease has a hereditary influence, close relatives (especially first degree relatives, such as children, siblings, and parents) have a higher risk of being affected with the condition.The patient must have a genetic predisposition to develop the disorder.Then, something in their environment acts as a stimulus, or "trigger," to their immune system, causing the disease to become active for the first time.The resulting inflammation causes damage to the delicate finger-like structures in the intestine, called villi, where food absorption actually takes place.The patient may experience a number of symptoms related to the inflammation and the chemicals it releases, and/or the lack of ability to absorb nutrients from food, which can cause malnutrition.Celiac disease occurs when the body reacts abnormally to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats.

This combination of genetic susceptibility and an outside agent leads to celiac disease.The most commonly recognized symptoms of celiac disease relate to the improper absorption of food in the gastrointestinal system.Many patients with gastrointestinal symptoms will have diarrhea and fatty, greasy, unusually foul-smelling stools.The patient may complain of excessive gas (flatulence), distended abdomen, weight loss, and generalized weakness.

Not all people have digestive system complications; some people only have irritability or depression.

Each person with celiac disease is affected differently.