The symptoms of celiac disease may be treatable and preventable, according to a new study.

Celiac disease is a digestive disorder. It is triggered by a protein called gluten which is commonly found in wheat, barley, and rye. In those with the disease, the gluten can trigger an autoimmune reaction inside the intestines.

According to, symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, and often mimic symptoms of other conditions. They go on to say that sufferers often complain gastric related discomforts, including intermittent diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. Other symptoms can include “dental and bone disorders (such as osteoporosis), depression, irritability, joint pain, mouth sores, muscle cramps, skin rash, stomach discomfort, and even tingling in the legs and feet (neuropathy).”

Celiac disease prevents the proper absorption of nutrients, and it’s estimated to affect about 1% of the population.

Results from the study, published in the Journal Nature, suggest that the inflammatory response to gluten may be triggered by interleukin 15 and retinoic acid, which is a derivative of vitamin A.

Bana Jabri, MD, PhD, a member of the Celiac Disease Center and Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Chicago, said “We found that having elevated levels of IL-15 in the gut could initiate all the early stages of celiac disease in those who were genetically susceptible, and that blocking IL-15 could prevent the disease in our mouse model. It also demonstrated that in the treatment of inflammatory intestinal diseases, vitamin A and its retinoic acid metabolites are likely to do more harm than good.”

According to the authors of the study, it was previously thought that retinoic acid would lessen the inflammation in the intestine. Instead they found that it may aggravate the problem.

In the study it was found that when researchers blocked interleukin 15 in mice that were genetically engineered to have celiac disease, the disease symptoms reversed. The mice were able to eat gluten without suffering the symptoms of celiac disease.

Medicines designed to block interleukin 15 are already in development for other inflammation related diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

“In the U.S., we need to increase awareness and diagnosis of celiac disease because less than 10% of patients are diagnosed,” said Dr. Jabri. “A gluten-free diet is currently the treatment of choice, but some patients only respond partially, and it is still socially a handicap.”