Do People With Celiac Disease Need to Take Vitamins?

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Do people with celiac disease need vitamins?. Brian Hagawara/Getty Images

Question: Do people with celiac disease need to take vitamins?

Answer: This is a tricky issue — it may depend on how bad your condition was when you were first diagnosed, and also on how good your overall diet tends to be.

You probably know that when people with celiac disease eat gluten, their small intestines become inflamed and damaged. This damage prevents vitamins in food from being absorbed properly.

Effects of vitamin deficiencies can include neurological dysfunction, anemia, fatigue, short stature, osteoporosis, and more. In fact, several studies have suggested that vitamin deficiencies are actually among the symptoms of celiac disease.

In fact, it's not unusual for people just diagnosed with celiac disease to show signs of malnutrition, regardless of how well they'd been eating at the time, since their bodies just couldn't absorb the nutrients they were consuming.

But I'm Gluten-Free Now - Why Is This Still A Problem?

Even after a person with celiac disease adopts a gluten-free diet, various vitamin deficiencies can persist even for years (it really does take a long time to resolve some of these issues, especially if your diet isn't perfect). 

At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston in 2009, for example, researchers studied 109 men and women with celiac disease to see whether the food they were eating on the gluten-free diet was providing the daily recommended intakes for various nutrients.

When the people participating in the study recorded everything they ate over a three-day period, it turned out that many were not getting enough nutrients in their food.

What nutrients specifically? It turns out some of the B vitamins are problematic, as are some minerals. Learn more:

    In addition, getting glutened (especially if it was a bad glutening) may lead to temporary problems absorbing certain nutrients. I've heard of people with celiac disease actually requiring vitamin B-12 shots in order to bring their levels up quickly, and many celiacs are low in vitamin D.

    The Bottom Line

    So the answer is that people with celiac disease usually do need supplemental vitamins. But as the Celiac Sprue Association cautions on its website, those with celiac disease should not take nutrient supplements without a physician's monitoring.

    Current guidelines and recommendations for appropriate vitamin intakes are based on studies of healthy people without diseases. Patients with celiac disease should have their vitamin status analyzed by a registered dietitian and/or a physician in order to determine what vitamins they need to take, and how much.

    (Edited by Jane Anderson)


    Celiac Sprue Association

    Clayton PT. B6-responsive disorders: a model of vitamin dependency. Journal of Inherited Metabolic Diseases 2006; 29: 317-26.

    Kapur G et al. Iron supplementation in children with celiac disease. Indian Journal of Pediatrics 2003; 70: 955-8.

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