Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can cause a wide range of symptoms, from digestion issues to skin problems.
Here are 9 common symptoms of celiac disease and how you can manage them.
9 symptoms of celiac disease
Before being diagnosed with celiac disease, you may notice loose, watery stool. One study reported that 43% of people with celiac disease have diarrhea as their primary symptom.
Diarrhea and other symptoms of celiac disease can usually be resolved by following a gluten-free diet. Studies have shown that those who follow a gluten-free diet experience less diarrhea than those who don’t.
Of course, diarrhea can also be caused by other food intolerances or intestinal issues.
Bloating is another common symptom of celiac disease, caused by inflammation of the digestive tract.
Around 9% of people diagnosed with celiac disease experience bloating along with other digestive problems. Following a gluten-free diet can reduce bloating and other symptoms.
Sometimes, gluten can cause bloating even if you do not have celiac disease. According to one study, gluten was associated with worsened symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) including bloating and stomach pain.
Bloating can also be caused by factors unrelated to celiac disease, including bowel obstruction and constipation.
Celiac disease can also cause gas. A study conducted on 130 children with the condition reported that approximately 47% of them experienced increased gas.
However, gas can also be caused by other conditions, such as lactose intolerance and IBS.
Although diarrhea is the most common symptom of celiac disease, constipation can occur in some cases as well.
Celiac disease damages the fingerlike projections in the lining of the small intestine (intestinal villi). Intestinal villi are responsible for absorbing nutrients. As food travels through the small intestine, the villi cannot absorb nutrients and often end up absorbing extra moisture from the stool, resulting in hardened stool that leads to constipation.
It can be challenging to relieve constipation even on a gluten-free diet since many of these types of diets limit the intake of high-fiber foods such as whole grains.
Other causes of constipation include dehydration and lack of physical activity.
People with celiac disease often experience fatigue. This can be caused by a lack of sleep due to discomfort or other digestive symptoms. Untreated celiac disease can also damage the small intestine, leading to vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can cause low energy levels.
Other possible causes of fatigue include thyroid problems, anemia, and depression.
6. Weight loss
Weight loss is often an early sign of celiac disease, caused by impaired nutrition absorption. It may manifest as a sudden drop in weight or difficulty keeping weight on.
Studies have found that following a strict gluten-free diet can help people with celiac disease increase body weight.
Other potential causes of unexplained weight loss include diabetes, thyroid problems, or cancer.
7. Iron deficiency anemia
Celiac disease can disrupt nutrient absorption and lead to iron deficiency anemia, which is a condition in which the body lacks enough healthy red blood cells. One study showed that about 40% of people with celiac disease have iron deficiency anemia.
Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:
Aside from celiac disease, other potential causes of iron deficiency anemia include poor diet and long-term use of aspirin or other pain relievers.
8. Skin rashes
Celiac disease can cause itchy skin rashes that typically occur on the elbows, knees, or buttocks. This type of rash is a distinctive symptom of celiac disease and is called dermatitis herpetiformis.
If you develop this type of rash, you may not experience the digestive symptoms associated with celiac disease.
Apart from celiac disease, other potential causes of an itchy skin rash include skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.
In addition to physical symptoms, celiac disease can also cause psychological symptoms. Several studies have found that people with celiac disease may be more prone to developing depression, anxiety, or eating disorders.
Other causes of depression may include hormonal changes or stress.
How to manage symptoms of celiac disease
Some of the gluten products you should avoid completely include:
- All types of bread (unless labeled “gluten-free”)
- Baked goods, such as cake, cookies, doughnuts, and muffins
- Popular snack foods, such as crackers, pretzels, and some types of chips
- Gravy and other sauces
Grains and starches that are allowed on a gluten-free diet include:
Medications that may be prescribed for celiac disease include:
- Dapsone for rashes
- Vitamin or mineral supplements to treat malnutrition and malabsorption
- Steroids or immunosuppressants to control inflammation
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
WebMD. Foods High in Gluten. https://www.webmd.com/diet/foods-high-in-gluten
Mayo Clinic. Celiac disease. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/celiac-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352225
National Institutes of Health. Treatment for Celiac Disease. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease/treatment
Parzanese I, Qehajaj D, Patrinicola F, Aralica M, Chiriva-Internati M, Stifter S, Elli L, Grizzi F. Celiac disease: From pathophysiology to treatment. World J Gastrointest Pathophysiol. 2017 May 15;8(2):27-38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5437500/
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