Is Celiac Disease Very Serious?

Medically Reviewed on 12/9/2022
Is Celiac Disease Very Serious
If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to serious complications

Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease that causes small intestine damage from gluten consumption. If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to significant problems.

When people with celiac disease consume gluten (a protein in some grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye), their immune systems react by damaging their small intestines.

What happens if you ignore celiac disease?

It is a common misconception that consuming a small amount of gluten does not do much harm when it comes to celiac disease. Even a small amount of gluten can cause celiac disease symptoms and raise your risk of the following problems:


Celiac disease can hinder your ability to fully absorb nutrients, which can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies:

  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Anemia due to vitamin B12 and folate deficiency
  • Osteoporosis (a condition that causes brittle and weak bones)


Because celiac disease makes the digestive system less effective, it can sometimes result in malnutrition, which impairs your body's ability to function normally and heal from injuries and infections.

Severe malnutrition can lead to:

Lactose intolerance

If you have celiac disease, you have a higher risk of developing lactose intolerance since your body lacks the enzyme needed to break down the milk sugars (lactose) found in dairy products. Bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort are symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Lactose does not damage your body the way gluten does in celiac disease. However, because you cannot effectively digest lactose, you may have gut-related discomfort after eating dairy products.

Dairy products are an important source of calcium, so you will need to make up for not eating dairy by taking calcium supplements.

Pregnancy complications

Poorly managed celiac disease during pregnancy increases the chance of experiencing pregnancy-related complications such as low birth weight infants.


Celiac disease slightly increases your risk of certain cancers. Associated cancers include small bowel cancer, small bowel lymphoma, and Hodgkin lymphoma.

Your risk of developing these cancers is the same as the general population if you have been gluten-free for 3-5 years.

What are the early warning signs of celiac disease?

Symptoms of celiac disease include:

How is celiac disease diagnosed?

Tests used to diagnose celiac disease include the following:

Antibody blood tests

An antibody is a protein produced by the immune system to combat diseases or disease-causing organisms. However, in those with celiac disease, the immune system misinterprets gluten as detrimental to the body and secretes specific antibodies to attack it. These antibodies include:

  • Antitissue transglutaminase
  • Antiendomysium
  • Antideamidated gliadin peptides

A diagnosis of celiac disease can be made by measuring the blood levels of these antibodies. However, because blood tests can produce inaccurate results, they are not enough to make a definitive diagnosis.

Endoscopic biopsy

A biopsy of the small intestine is the only way to determine whether you have celiac disease and rule out gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy

During this procedure, a long, thin tube called an endoscope is inserted through the mouth and stomach and into the upper small intestine to collect tissue samples from 5-6 locations. These tissue samples are inspected under a microscope to identify any damage to the intestinal villi.


Celiac disease is caused by an autoimmune reaction to ______________. See Answer

What is the difference between celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity?

Blood tests can help confirm celiac disease by identifying certain markers. 

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) symptoms may include brain fog, nausea, vomiting, migraines, diarrhea, joint pain, and abdominal pain. However, NCGS does not damage the gut and there are no identifiable blood markers. 

To diagnose NCGS, your doctor may advise following a gluten-free diet. If your symptoms go away, you may have NCGS.

How do I cope with celiac disease?

Celiac disease does not yet have a cure, but your doctor can help you effectively manage the condition. It is crucial to avoid gluten-containing foods such as:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Beer
Medically Reviewed on 12/9/2022
Image Source: iStock image

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Left untreated, celiac disease can result in serious complications