Who Discovered Celiac Disease?

Last Updated on May 18, 2024

Today, we’re going to be answering the question: who discovered celiac disease? And taking a look at the history of celiac disease. It’s actually been around far longer than you may expect, and gluten has been causing havoc in people’s lives for thousands of years. That’s right…thousands! But more on that later. First, let’s take a look at what celiac disease is and the most common symptoms.

What Is Celiac Disease?

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already familiar with what celiac disease is. However, I remember scouring the internet for answers when suffering greatly with symptoms, unsure of what it was that was causing them. For me, it was celiac disease – and it may be for you too.

Celiac disease is a chronic disorder that over the years, will cause long-term damage to your small intestine. When you eat gluten, your immune system thinks it’s under threat and attacks your own tissues. This can cause damage to your organs, as well as stopping you from taking in needed nutrients. This can then lead to problems such as anemia.

Currently, the only way to help your body to recover from any damage is to remove gluten from your diet completely. Even the smallest breadcrumb can trigger symptoms, so you must be extremely careful. Even more so if you have no symptoms at all, as the gluten is still doing damage without your knowledge!

Find more information about Can Celiac Disease Cause Weight Gain?

Symptoms Of Celiac Disease

The most common symptoms you’ll experience with celiac disease (or gluten intolerance) are:

  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • abdominal pain
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • gas
  • bloating

While those are the most common symptoms, those with celiac disease can suffer from a great range of less common symptoms, including:

  • anemia
  • mouth ulcers
  • headaches
  • joint pain
  • itchy skin rash

You can find out more about the symptoms here.

history of celiac disease

A Brief History Of Celiac Disease

If you’re reading this article, you may be curious as to when was celiac disease discovered? When was gluten intolerance discovered? Let’s take a closer look at how it all began, right up until the present day. Many humans had been suffering over the years, but they were unsure of what the trigger was. It wasn’t until the second world war that it was found to be gluten. But celiac disease dates back much further than that!

First Century AD – The First Signs

Over a decade ago, during a dig, a woman was found from the first century. From her remains, they discovered the celiac gene and the damage that usually comes with it. There were also signs of malnourishment, which is very typical with undiagnosed celiac disease.

5OAD – Celiac Disease Gets Its Name

“The Coeliac Affection” is penned by the medical clinician, Aretaeus of Cappadocia. In his writing, he describes the coeliac affection as:

“If the stomach be irretentive of the food and if it pass through undigested and crude, and nothing ascends into the body, we call such persons coeliacs”

1800s – Different Diets Seem To Help?

Fast forward hundreds of years and Matthew Baillie writes about those suffering from a gastro issue. Spectacularly, this issue and its symptoms seem to improve on a rice diet. As we now know, rice is a great substitute for gluten. Although they were unaware that gluten was causing the issue, they did know what a rice-heavy diet seemed to be the key to at least alleviating symptoms a little.

Late 1800’s And Early 1900’s – Diet Is The Key

Many doctors and physicians knew that changing diet was the way forward. The “banana diet” from Sidney Haas comes onto the scene. Parents brought their children from all over the country to seek his help. His patients could not have starches, and the diet was mainly made up of bananas!

1940’s – Wheat Is The Trigger!

Doctor Willem Karel Dicke may not have penned the name, but he was the first to suggest that wheat was the issue. The first wheat-free diet was all thanks to him!

1952 – Not Just Wheat…

This is when the UK found that wheat was not the only trigger. But also barley, and rye. The problem is not just wheat, but in fact, gluten!

1970’s – Onwards

A whole heap of medical research has taken place during this time. Celiac disease is officially recognized as an autoimmune condition. Links have also been found in those with celiac disease with having certain genes. This was revolutionary for moving forwards. It helped testing move forward massively, and nowadays a simple blood test is enough to pinpoint celiac disease!

2006 – A Cure?

Trials began in 2006 as a way to help those with celiac disease. While lots of research has taken place over the years, they haven’t been successful yet in finding a way to help. While there are tablets that claim to help break down the gluten protein, there isn’t much evidence to support that. And it’s marketed at those with gluten intolerance, rather than celiac disease.

The Future Of Celiac Disease

As we’ve seen, scientists are working furiously on a way forward for those living with celiac disease. There are millions of us around the globe living with this, and it would be life-changing for many of us if there was a cure. Beyond Celiac have a plan to find a cure by 2030 – you can read the full article here.

While we don’t know what the future holds, we’re definitely headed in the right direction. And I personally have a lot of hope for the future.

Learn more about Celiac Service Dogs


I hope this article has helped to answer the question: who discovered celiac disease? And has also shown you where it all began, all the way up to the present day—and even looking to the future. While receiving a diagnosis is a massive lifestyle change, removing gluten from your diet will help you to feel better than you could ever possibly imagine. So keep moving forward, it will get better. And we can keep our fingers crossed for a cure in the near future!