Celiac disease is a disorder in which eating gluten triggers an immune response in the body, causing inflammation and damage to the small intestine.
Gluten is a type of protein found in grains including wheat, barley, spelt and rye.
It’s estimated that celiac disease affects nearly 1% of the population in the United States.
Celiac disease is a serious condition that can cause a host of negative symptoms, including digestive issues and nutritional deficiencies.
These are the 5 most common signs and symptoms of celiac disease.
Loose, watery stool is one of the first symptoms that many people experience before being diagnosed with celiac disease.
For many patients, diarrhea was reduced within a few days of treatment, but the average time to fully resolve symptoms was four weeks.
However, keep in mind that there are many other possible causes of diarrhea, such as infection, other food intolerances or other intestinal issues.
Diarrhea is one of the most common symptoms of celiac disease. Treatment can reduce and resolve diarrhea within a few days to a few weeks.
Excess gas is a common digestive issue experienced by those with untreated celiac disease but there are many causes of gas.
Other, more common causes of gas include constipation, indigestion, swallowing air and conditions like lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Studies show that gas is one of the most common symptoms of untreated celiac disease, though note that gas can be caused by many other conditions, as well.
Decreased energy levels and fatigue are prevalent in those with celiac disease.
Other potential causes of fatigue include infection, thyroid problems, depression and anemia.
Fatigue is a common issue for those with celiac disease. Recent studies show that those with celiac disease are more likely to have sleep disorders and nutritional deficiencies, which may contribute to the problem.
A sharp drop in weight and difficulty keeping weight on are often early signs of celiac disease.
This is because your body’s ability to absorb nutrients is impaired, which can potentially lead to malnutrition and weight loss.
Many people with celiac disease experience unexplained weight loss. However, following a gluten-free diet typically helps people increase their body weight.
Celiac disease can impair nutrient absorption and may lead to iron-deficiency anemia, a condition caused by a lack of red blood cells in the body.
Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia include fatigue, weakness, chest pain, headaches and dizziness.
However, there are many other potential causes of iron-deficiency anemia, including a poor diet, the long-term use of pain relievers like aspirin, or blood loss through heavy menstrual bleeding or peptic ulcers.
Celiac disease can impair nutrient absorption, which may lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Nevertheless, there are several other potential causes of iron-deficiency anemia, as well.
While celiac disease may cause diarrhea in some people, it may cause constipation in others.
Celiac disease damages the intestinal villi, which are tiny, finger-like projections in the small intestine that are responsible for absorbing nutrients.
As food travels through the digestive tract, the intestinal villi are unable to fully absorb nutrients and may often absorb extra moisture from the stool instead. This leads to hardened stool that is difficult to pass, resulting in constipation..
However, even on a strict gluten-free diet, those with celiac disease may find it challenging to avoid constipation.
This is because a gluten-free diet cuts out many high-fiber foods like grains, which may result in decreased fiber intake and reduced stool frequency.
Physical inactivity, dehydration and a poor diet can cause constipation, as well.
Celiac disease may cause dermatitis herpetiformis, a type of itchy, blistering skin rash that can occur on the elbows, knees or buttocks.
Approximately 17% of those with celiac disease experience this rash and it is one of the telltale symptoms that lead to a diagnosis. It may also develop after diagnosis as a sign of poor adherence to treatment.
Interestingly enough, some people may develop this skin rash without the other digestive symptoms that typically occur with celiac disease. In fact, fewer than 10% of celiac patients who develop dermatitis herpetiformis experience digestive symptoms of celiac disease.
Other potential causes of an itchy skin rash besides celiac disease include eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and hives.