History of Celiac Disease

What is the origin of  “Celiac Disease"?
Celiac disease was first described in the second century, but it wasn't until the 20th century that rudimentary causative factors were identified. Terminology changed as research confirmed that celiac disease diagnosed in children was the same disease as non-tropical sprue diagnosed in adults. The term "celiac disease" is now most commonly used. Another term for the same condition includes "gluten sensitive enteropathy." Dermatitis herpetiformis and gluten ataxia are generally considered specific manifistations of celiac disease.

A Brief History of Celiac Disease
In 250 A.D., Aretaeus of Cappadocia included detailed descriptions of an unnamed disease in his writings. When describing his patients he referred to them as "koiliakos," which meant "suffering in the bowels."  Francis Adams translated these observations from Greek to English for the Sydenham Society of England in 1856. He thus gave sufferers the moniker "celiacs" or "coeliacs." 

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee, MD

First to link diet to celiac disease treatment
September 13th is designated National Celiac Disease Awareness Day in honor of Gee’s birthday.

In 1888, Gee presented clinical accounts of children and adults with celiac disease at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in the United Kingdom. Gee stated, “to regulate the food is the main part of treatment. The allowance of farinaceous foods must be small, but if the patient can be cured at all, it must be by means of diet.”

Dr. Willem Karel Dicke
Willem Karel Dicke, MD

Linked Wheat to Cause of Celiac Disease

Dutch pediatrician, recognized in 1952 for linking the ingestion of wheat proteins as cause of celiac disease. By 1954, Dicke, Charlotte Anderson and a number of their colleagues, working in Birmingham, England confirmed the treatment and described the histologic damage to the intestinal mucosa as being directly related to celiac disease. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the subject for the University of Utrecht in 1950.