Celiac Disease Symptoms, Diagnosis and IBS

wheat and celiac disease
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Celiac disease, is an autoimmune disorder in which eating foods that contain the protein gluten causes damage to the villi lining the small intestine. This damage results in problems with the absorption of critical nutrients, putting a person who has celiac disease at risk for serious health complications. Celiac disease is diagnosed in both children and adults.

Celiac disease used to be called celiac sprue, as it was categorized alongside a condition called tropical sprue.

Tropical sprue is a very different disease, but also results in malabsorption due to damage to the small intestine.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Due to the malabsorption of nutrients, celiac disease can impact all parts of the body. It therefore may present with a wide variety of symptoms. The following is a list of some of the more common symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia
  • Bloating
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Osteoporosis
  • Tooth enamel problems
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Celiac Disease Diagnosis

The first step in a diagnosis of celiac disease is a blood test. You must be eating gluten-containing foods at the time of testing in order for the testing to be accurate. This blood test is just a screening. A definitive celiac disease diagnosis is made following an intestinal biopsy and symptom improvement as a result of following a gluten-free diet.

Celiac Disease Treatment

The gold standard of treatment for celiac disease is to follow a strict gluten-free diet.

Even tiny amounts of gluten can cause damage to the villi in the small intestine, putting a person at serious risk for severe health complications.

Research into alternative treatments is in very preliminary stages. Possibilities include various types of medications or perhaps the use of a vaccine. However, until there is solid research as to the effectiveness of these alternatives, the gluten-free diet is essential for anyone who has the disease.

Celiac Disease and IBS

Celiac disease and IBS share many of the same symptoms. Research has been mixed as to the risk of a person who has IBS as actually having undiagnosed celiac disease. Since such a possibility may exist, IBS management guidelines recommend that all IBS patients be screened for celiac disease.

Even when celiac disease has been ruled out, an IBS patient may still have a reactivity to gluten-containing foods and thus may benefit from gluten-free diet. This may be due to a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or due to a reactivity to the carbohydrate fructan, one of the FODMAP types identified by researchers who developed the low-FODMAP diet for IBS.


American College of Gastroenterology IBS Task Force "An Evidence-Based Position Statement on the Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome" American Journal of Gastroenterology 2009:S1-S35.

"Celiac Disease" National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases Website accessed January 13, 2016.

Fasano, A. "Gluten Freedom" Nashville:Wiley 2014 Print.

Freeman, H. "Celiac Disease: A Disorder Emerging from Antiquity, Its Evolving Classification and Risk, and Potential New Treatment Paradigms" Gut and Liver 2015 9:28-37.

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