Is celiac disease life threatening?

Key Facts

  • Celiac disease affects a person’s digestive system.
  • Symptoms are caused from a reaction to gluten; a protein found in certain foods.
  • People with celiac disease must follow a gluten-free diet.

Celiac disease (also known as coeliac disease or celiac sprue) is the name of a condition in which the body’s own immune system overreacts to gluten, a protein found in many common foods such as cereal, bread, and pasta.

How does celiac disease affect the body?

Over time, this immune reaction to gluten damages the small intestine, where most nutrients are absorbed into the body. Eventually the body becomes malnourished no matter how much food is eaten, because the body can no longer absorb enough of the nutrients in the food.

A. In a healthy person, nutrients get absorbed by villi in the small intestine and go into the bloodstream. B. In a person with Celiac Disease, the villi have been damaged by inflammation, so fewer nutrients pass into the bloodstream.

The symptoms of celiac disease can be very different from person to person. The disease affects the digestive system as well as other body systems that you might not expect. The most common gastrointestinal (digestive) symptoms of celiac disease are weight loss and diarrhea, but can also include:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Unusual stool (ex. pale, greasy bowel movements)
  • Vomiting

Other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Iron-deficiency anemia (low blood cell count due to low iron)
  • Loss of bone density (Osteoporosis)
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Canker sores in the mouth
  • Tingling and numbness in hands and feet
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis – A specific type of intensely itchy skin rash
  • Amenorrhea (absent or no menstrual periods)

Younger people suffering from celiac disease while they are growing may experience:

  • Delayed growth and stature
  • Delayed puberty
  • Dental problems including defects of the enamel (the hard, white visible part of the tooth)

How common is celiac disease?

Celiac disease occurs in about 1 in 133 people.

The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown but scientists do know that it is an autoimmune disorder, it runs in families and certain environmental factors such as a viral infection, pregnancy and childbirth may trigger the disease in someone who is already at risk.

Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are often similar to the symptoms of other medical conditions. If a person is thought to have celiac disease, they will likely need to have a:

  • blood test
  • biopsy of the small intestine

What is an endoscopy?

An endoscopy is a test that allows the doctor to look at the small intestine with a very thin flexible instrument that has a tiny camera at the end, called an endoscope. The instrument allows the doctor to look for inflammation and/or destruction of the lining of the small intestine. The patient will receive medicine that will cause drowsiness. The endoscope is inserted through the patient’s mouth, all the way to the small intestine where a small piece of tissue can be removed (biopsy) and viewed in more detail.

How is celiac disease treated?

Since the symptoms of celiac disease are caused by a reaction to gluten, the main treatment is to avoid eating foods that contain gluten. Complete elimination of gluten from the diet generally allows the small intestine to heal and enables the body to properly absorb the nutrients from food. This “gluten-free diet” must be maintained for the patient’s lifetime – a return to eating gluten means new damage to the small intestine and a return of symptoms.

There are many gluten-free foods that you can find in regular grocery stores and specialty markets, as well as many delicious recipes made with gluten-free foods. Learning how to follow a gluten-free diet can be challenging at first but feeling better is good motivation to learn how.

Complications of Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a common digestive disorder. At one time, it was thought that celiac disease was a disease of childhood and that the most common symptoms were bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and failure to thrive. Now that blood tests can identify celiac disease in adults, we are realizing that it is much more common than once thought.

Celiac Disease: Why It Happens

Celiac disease, also called the “great mimic” disease, can cause many different symptoms and vary from person to person. It is therefore easy for celiac disease to be overlooked or misdiagnosed as another condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

“If you have celiac disease, it means that your immune system can’t tolerate the protein in wheat, rye, or barley,” says John Birk, MD, chief of gastroenterology at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. “This causes inflammation of your small intestine that decreases your ability to absorb essential nutrients in food. Over time, these nutrient deficits can lead to complications.”

Celiac Disease Complications

In adults, the digestive symptoms may be less common and the signs or symptoms of celiac disease may be related to the long-term effects of poor absorption. Some of the more common complications include:

  • Malnutrition. Many people with celiac disease will have trouble maintaining a healthy weight and may complain of fatigue and weakness. Blood tests often show iron deficiency despite iron therapy. Vitamins may not be absorbed properly. This failure of the intestine to absorb nutrients is called “malabsorption.”
  • Bone loss. “Failure to absorb nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D can contribute to poor bone density,” notes Dr. Birk. This can lead to osteoporosis, bone pain, and bone weakness that may cause bones to break easily.
  • Lactose intolerance. “Lactose intolerance is more common if you have celiac disease but can also be a byproduct of inflammation caused by celiac disease,” notes Birk. The inflammation in the lining of your intestine can keep you from producing the enzyme needed to break down lactose, which is the sugar in dairy products. Undigested lactose can cause gas and diarrhea.
  • Irritability and depression. Children with celiac disease are extremely irritable. In adults, celiac disease can cause symptoms of depression, lack of energy, and problems with memory and concentration. Research shows that these symptoms may be due to malabsorption of vitamin B6 and tryptophan. These are important nutrients you need to produce chemicals called “neurotransmitters” that stimulate nerve cells in your brain.
  • Lymphoma and bowel cancer. If celiac disease is left untreated, it can increase your risk for developing certain types of digestive system cancers. Lymphoma of the small intestine is a rare type of cancer but may be 30 times more common in people with celiac disease. Adenocarcinoma of the intestine and cancer of the esophagus are also more common. This increased risk of cancer is probably due to the irritation and inflammation in untreated celiac disease over a long period of time.
  • Low birth-weight babies. This is a common occurrence in women with uncontrolled celiac disease.
  • Dental defects. Permanent damage to the enamel of the teeth occurs due to malabsorption of calcium and other minerals.

“The good news is that in most cases the symptoms can be reversed and the complications prevented by a gluten-free diet,” says Birk. In about 70 percent of cases, symptoms of celiac disease start to improve within a few weeks. It may take longer for some people, and it may take as long as two years for all the damage in the small intestine to be healed. The sooner you get a proper diagnosis and start a gluten-free diet, the better chance you have of avoiding complications.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a digestive problem that hurts your small intestine. It stops your body from taking in nutrients from food.

You may have celiac disease if you are sensitive to gluten. Gluten is a kind of protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes in small amounts in mixed oats.

When you have celiac disease and you eat foods with gluten, your body has a reaction that is not normal. The part of your body that fights disease (the immune system) starts to hurt your small intestine. It attacks the tiny bumps (villi) that line your small intestine.

The villi help your body take in nutrients from food into your bloodstream. Without the villi, your small intestine can’t get enough nutrients, no matter how much food you eat.

Celiac disease is genetic. This means it can be passed down from parent to child.

More than 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease. Studies show that as many as 1 in every 133 Americans may have it. They may not know they have it.

Celiac disease is more common in people:

  • Whose ancestors came from Europe

  • Who are white

  • Who have type 1 diabetes

  • Who have Down syndrome

  • Who have other autoimmune diseases

  • Who are infertile

  • Who have irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea

What causes celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a genetic disease that runs in families. You may have celiac disease and not know it because you don’t have any symptoms.

Some things that may make symptoms start to appear are:

  • Too much stress

  • Pregnancy

  • Surgery

  • Physical injury

  • Infection

  • Childbirth

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

Celiac disease affects people in different ways. Some have symptoms as children. Others have symptoms only as adults. Some people have diarrhea and belly (abdominal) pain. Others may feel moody or depressed.

Each person’s symptoms may vary. Common signs of celiac disease include:

  • Constant (chronic) diarrhea or constipation

  • Weight loss

  • Gas

  • Pale, bad-smelling stool

  • Unexplained low blood count that makes you feel tired (anemia)

  • Tingling, numb feeling in the legs

  • Missed menstrual periods (linked to too much weight loss)

  • Infertility

  • Early osteoporosis or fractures

  • Teeth changing color or losing their enamel

Celiac disease can be painful. Some common pain symptoms are:

  • Stomach pain or swelling (bloating) that keeps coming back

  • Muscle cramps or bone pain

  • Pain in the joints

  • Painful, itchy skin rash

Children who have celiac disease may not grow at a normal rate.

You may have celiac disease but not have any symptoms. That is because the part of your small intestine that is not hurt can still take in enough nutrients. But you may still be at risk for problems of the disease.

Celiac disease symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.

How is celiac disease diagnosed?

Celiac disease can be hard to diagnose. Its symptoms may look like symptoms of other digestive problems such as:

  • Crohn’s disease

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Ulcerative colitis

  • Infected colon (diverticulitis)

  • Intestinal infections

  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth

To see if you have celiac disease, your healthcare provider will look at your past health and do a physical exam. You may also have tests such as:

  • Blood work. This is done to check the level of infection-fighting cells (antibodies) you have to gluten in your blood. People with celiac disease have higher than normal levels of these cells. Your immune system makes these cells to help fight things (such as gluten) that the body feels are a danger.

  • Biopsy. This is the most accurate way to tell if you have celiac disease. A tissue sample (biopsy) is taken from your small intestine to check for damage to the villi. To do this, a long, thin tube (endoscope) is placed in your mouth, down to your stomach and into your small intestine. A tissue sample is taken using tools passed through the tube. The sample is checked in a lab.

What is the treatment for celiac disease?

If you have celiac disease, you must stop eating gluten. Eating gluten will do more damage to your small intestine. Eliminating gluten is the only treatment for this disease. You must not eat gluten for the rest of your life.
In most cases, taking gluten out of your diet will stop your symptoms. And, any damage to your intestine will heal. It will also stop any more damage from happening.
Removing gluten from your diet can be difficult. This is because gluten can contaminate many foods. It can be found in condiments, salad dressings, and other unexpected places. For this reason, your healthcare provider may refer you to a dietitian who specializes in celiac disease.
After you stop eating foods with gluten, your symptoms will likely get better in a few days. Your small intestine should heal completely in 3 to 6 months. Your villi will be back and working again. If you are older, it may take up to 2 years for your body to heal.

Key points

  • Celiac disease is a digestive problem that hurts your small intestine. It stops your body from taking in nutrients from food.

  • You may have celiac disease if you are sensitive to gluten.

  • If you have celiac disease and eat foods with gluten, your immune system starts to hurt your small intestine.

  • Celiac disease is genetic. This means it can be passed from parent to child.

  • It is more common in people who are white, have type 1 diabetes, are obese, or have ancestors from Europe.

  • You may have celiac disease and not know it because you don’t have any symptoms.

  • It can be hard to diagnose. Its symptoms can look like symptoms of other digestive problems.

  • The only treatment is to stop eating gluten.

  • Once you stop eating gluten, your body will start to heal.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.

  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.

  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.

  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.

  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.

Continue Reading

All about celiac disease

Currently, the only treatment is to avoid gluten for life.

With strict observance of the diet, the intestines will normally heal and symptoms disappear, but eating gluten again can cause a relapse.

Patients need to be aware which foods contain gluten and which do not, but this may be difficult, as many products contain hidden gluten.

A qualified dietitian can help a person with celiac disease follow a healthy diet.

Products with and without gluten

A wide range of products are available labelled gluten-free. These include gluten-free breads, pasta, cookies and so on. Manufacturers are required to provide information about the ingredients used to make their food products, but individuals must check the label carefully before buying or consuming any product.

Share on PinterestGluten-free alternatives to bread, flour, pasta, and other foods are now widely available.

“Gluten-free” normally indicates that there is a harmless level of gluten rather than a total absence of it.

Regulations about the use of labelling on gluten-free products vary between countries, so patients should use caution.

A person who is following a gluten-free diet should avoid:

  • all foods made from wheat, rye, bran, enriched flour, bulgur and barley, including cereals, breads, pasta, croutons, crackers, cakes, and cookies
  • beer and other grain-based alcohol
  • oats

Some oat preparations can be contaminated with wheat. In some cases, small quantities of oats are allowed into the diet under medical supervision.

Care should be taken with some food products that are produced in facilities that manufacture products containing gluten.

Many processed foods contain gluten, including:

  • canned soups
  • salad dressings, ketchup, and mustard
  • soy sauce
  • seasonings
  • ice cream and candy bars
  • processed and canned meats and sausages

Gluten may also be used in:

  • some prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications
  • vitamin products
  • cosmetic products such as lipstick, lip gloss, chapstick, and toothpaste
  • postage stamps

People with celiac disease often have a lactose intolerance, so avoiding lactose may help.

Anyone with celiac disease should read food labels carefully and check which restaurant foods are gluten-free. Some restaurants have a gluten-free menu.

A gluten-free diet for all?

Those who do not have celiac disease or a diagnosed gluten intolerance should speak to their doctor if they are thinking of “going gluten free.”

A gluten-free diet can lead to other deficiencies, if not followed with care.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), “No current data suggests that the general public should maintain a gluten-free diet for weight loss or better health.”

Foods that are safe to consume

Cereals such as corn, millet, sorghum, teff, rice, and wild rice are safe to consume.

Non-cereals such as amaranth, quinoa, or buckwheat are also harmless, as are potatoes and bananas, tapioca, and garbanzo beans. They do not contain gluten and do not trigger symptoms.

A person with celiac disease may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements to reduce the risk of deficiencies caused by the disorder.

Recipes can be made gluten free by substituting ingredients and adjusting the time and temperature used for baking.

The connection between gluten and celiac disease

Gluten is a protein found in foods that contain wheat, rye, and barley. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which eating gluten causes the body’s immune system to damage the small intestine, which reduces its ability to absorb virtually all nutrients.

According to the National Institute of Health, three million Americans, or 1 in every 133 people, have celiac disease, but only about 5 percent of them have been clinically diagnosed.

A related condition called gluten sensitivity or non-celiac gluten sensitivity can cause symptoms similar to celiac disease, but without the intestinal damage.

Symptoms of celiac disease can be different in each person. Common symptoms are diarrhea or constipation, vomiting and weight loss, malnutrition, anemia (low levels of red blood cells), tiredness or fatigue, bone or joint pain, depression, stomach bloating and pain, and short stature in children.

People who suffer from irritable bowel-like stomach problems, headaches, fatigue, numbness, and depression may have gluten sensitivity.

How is it diagnosed?

Celiac disease is diagnosed with blood tests. The results of the test may need to be confirmed with a biopsy of the small intestine. A biopsy is done during a procedure called an endoscopy.

The treatment for celiac disease or gluten intolerance is to eat a gluten-free diet. Removing gluten from your diet allows the intestines to heal. Healing time is different for each person.

If you’re diagnosed with celiac disease, you’ll have to stay on a gluten-free diet even after you feel well because eating gluten can damage the small intestine, cause nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition, keep the immune system from working properly, and make it hard for the body to fight infections.

Avoiding gluten means more than giving up traditional breads, cereals, pasta, pizza, and beer. Gluten also lurks in many other products, including frozen vegetables in sauces, soy sauce, some foods made with natural flavorings, vitamin and mineral supplements, some medications, and even toothpaste. This makes following a gluten-free diet extremely challenging.

What if you haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease?

If you think you might have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it’s best to see your healthcare provider before you go gluten free. Once a person has avoided gluten for a while, it becomes more difficult to establish if he or she has celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or neither.

If you don’t have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, eliminating gluten from your diet can cause nutritional deficiencies. Fortified breads and cereals have become a major source of B vitamins in the United States. Although breads made with white rice, tapioca, and other gluten-free flours are becoming more common, they’re generally not fortified with vitamins.

In addition to nutrient deficiencies, gluten-free products tend to be more expensive than traditional products, so you could be needlessly wasting money on foods you don’t need in order to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Wheat field – A gluten free diet can help manage coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.

Coeliac disease (pronounced SEE-lee-ak) is a serious medical condition where the lining of the small intestine is damaged by tiny amounts of gluten (a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats).

It is caused when the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten and means people do not absorb food and nutrients properly. This can result in health problems such as malnutrition and osteoporosis.

The abnormal immune response to gluten causes damage to the small intestine when the tiny, finger-like projections lining the bowel, called villi, become inflamed and flattened. This is called villous atrophy and it reduces the available surface area of the bowel to absorb nutrients from food.

People with coeliac disease can have severe symptoms, or they may have no obvious symptoms at all. Common symptoms include:

  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • weight loss
  • nausea
  • flatulence (passing wind)
  • feeling pain, cramping or discomfort in the stomach
  • feeling tired, lethargic and weak
  • iron deficiency
  • pains in the bones and joints
  • mouth ulcers
  • skin rashes or bruising easily
  • feeling irritable.

Check your symptoms with healthdirect Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

Coeliac disease affects people of all ages and gender. It runs in families and can develop at any age from infancy to adulthood.

It is very important to be properly diagnosed with coeliac disease by a doctor because it is a serious medical condition that affects people for their whole life. If you have coeliac disease, you will have to remove all foods containing gluten from your diet.

If you think you may have coeliac disease don’t stop eating foods that contain gluten until after you have been diagnosed as stopping gluten means the tests are unreliable. Diagnosis involves blood tests and a small bowel biopsy (tiny samples of your small bowel will be collected by a doctor).

Coeliac disease can’t be cured, but it can be controlled with a strict, lifelong gluten free diet. If coeliac disease is not well controlled it can lead to complications such as osteoporosis, infertility, chronic poor health, depression and teeth problems. However, early diagnosis and treatment of coeliac disease significantly reduces the risk of most complications ever occurring.

Symptoms

The symptoms of coeliac disease vary considerably. Some people experience severe symptoms while others are asymptomatic (they have no obvious symptoms at all).

Symptoms can include one or more of the following:

  • gastrointestinal symptoms e.g. diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, steatorrhea
  • fatigue, weakness and lethargy
  • iron deficiency anaemia and/or other vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • failure to thrive or delayed puberty in children
  • weight loss (although some people may gain weight)
  • bone and joint pains
  • recurrent mouth ulcers and/or swelling of mouth or tongue
  • altered mental alertness and irritability
  • skin rashes such as dermatitis herpetiformis
  • easy bruising of the skin

People who experience any of the following should also be screened for coeliac disease

  • early onset osteoporosis
  • unexplained infertility
  • family history of coeliac disease
  • liver disease
  • autoimmune disease e.g. type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid condition

Importantly, treatment with a strict gluten free diet leads to small bowel healing, resolution of symptoms and a reduction in the long-term risk of these complications.

Although symptoms can vary considerably in coeliac disease, everybody with the condition is at risk of complications if they do not adhere strictly to treatment with a gluten free diet. There is no correlation between symptoms and bowel damage so even if you are asymptomatic (you have no obvious symptoms), damage to the small bowel can still occur if gluten is ingested. This means everybody with coeliac disease, irrespective of the severity of their symptoms, needs to adhere strictly to a gluten free diet.

Diet is the primary treatment for celiac disease and following a gluten-free diet significantly reduces many symptoms of the condition. People with celiac disease experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and bloating, and nausea and vomiting.

Celiac disease is diagnosed using an endoscopic biopsy. But, for the biopsy to be accurate, the individual must be consuming gluten. If you believe you may have celiac disease, see your doctor before going on a gluten-free diet.

Reduce Side Effects with Diet

Abdominal pain and bloating affect up to about 80 percent of individuals with celiac disease. Females are more likely to report these symptoms than males. However, strictly following a gluten-free diet resolves abdominal pain and bloating symptoms in a vast majority — up to 97 to 100 percent — of people with celiac disease.

Celiac disease can slow the speed at which food travels through the stomach and intestine, which may cause discomfort that results in nausea or vomiting — symptoms reported in up to 44 percent of people with the disease. One study showed it took four hours for food to travel from mouth to the large intestine in those with the disease compared to only two hours in those without celiac disease. Following a gluten-free diet increased this speed to about 2½ hours, a rate similar to those without celiac disease. In another study, none of the individuals complained about nausea following a gluten-free diet.

Diarrhea is one of the most common and distressing symptoms among individuals with celiac disease. Two studies have shown that roughly 75 to 80 percent of individuals with the disease reported experiencing diarrhea. However, research shows that following a gluten-free diet improves diarrhea in the vast majority of patients. One study showed improvements within days; although, the average time needed for diarrhea to resolve was four weeks on a gluten-free diet.

Research also indicates that constipation is more common among people with celiac disease, and generally improves following a gluten-free diet. In one study of individuals with celiac disease, 39 percent of participants reported problems with constipation before following a gluten-free diet. After adopting a gluten-free diet for six months, the majority of those individuals reported their constipation had resolved.

A small number of individuals with celiac disease may struggle with continuing symptoms, such as diarrhea or constipation, even after several months of faithfully following a gluten-free diet. Seeking guidance and treatment from a physician that specializes in celiac disease is the next step. Other health issues can resemble or be present in addition to celiac disease, including small intestinal bacterial overgrowth — the most common — as well as malabsorption of a naturally occurring sugar in milk (lactose) or a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit (fructose), or a parasite infestation. Also, some individuals with celiac disease experience other gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammation of the colon.

A registered dietitian nutritionist can provide further guidance on following a gluten-free diet and meeting nutrient needs.

Conditions linked to coeliac disease

There are a number of different conditions associated with coeliac disease, from other autoimmune conditions to complications like osteoporosis.

Autoimmune disorders

Coeliac disease itself is an autoimmune disease and people with coeliac disease have genes that predispose them to the condition, so if you have one autoimmune condition, there is an increased risk of having another one. Coeliac disease is more common in people with Type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroid disease.

It has been suggested that the chance of developing other autoimmune disorders is increased when diagnosis of coeliac disease is delayed. This may be because of the exposure to gluten before going onto a gluten free diet.

Type 1 diabetes

Coeliac disease and Type 1 diabetes are both autoimmune conditions. People with Type 1 diabetes are at a higher risk of having coeliac disease. Between 4 and 9% of people with Type 1 diabetes also have coeliac disease, compared with 1% in the general population. More information on coeliac disease and Type 1 diabetes.

Autoimmune thyroid disease

People with autoimmune thyroid disease are at a higher risk of having coeliac disease. The chance is between 1 – 4% compared with 1% in the general population. More information on autoimmune thyroid disease.

Other autoimmune disorders

The NICE (2015) guideline for the ‘Recognition, assessment and management of coeliac disease’ has reviewed the research evidence regarding coeliac disease and possible related conditions and recommends who should be screened for coeliac disease. There are many other autoimmune conditions not listed by NICE which may be linked to coeliac disease. There is research continuing to explore coeliac disease and possible related conditions.

Down’s and Turner Syndrome

NICE also recommends that testing for coeliac disease is considered in people with Down’s syndrome and Turner syndrome.

Down’s syndrome

Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and characteristic physical features. Coeliac disease is more common in people with Down’s syndrome.

Turner syndrome

Turner syndrome is a genetic disorder that only affects females. It is associated with a wide range of symptoms and some distinctive characteristics. Coeliac disease is more common in people with Turner syndrome.

Osteoporosis

Undiagnosed and untreated coeliac disease may lead to developing osteoporosis, which is where the bones become thin and brittle. This is because you may not have been absorbing calcium properly for some time. Find out more about osteoporosis.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance can be associated with coeliac disease as the disease damages the part of the gut where lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, is produced. Symptoms of lactose intolerance are similar to that of coeliac disease. Find out more.

Lymphoma and small bowel cancer

Lymphoma and small bowel cancer is a serious complication of coeliac disease. However, once someone with coeliac disease has been following the gluten free diet for three to five years, their risk of developing these specific types of cancers is no greater than that of the general population.

Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around them.

Although there is currently not enough evidence to recommend the use of a gluten free diet and casein free diet as a treatment for ASD, the most commonly requested dietary intervention in ASD is a gluten free and casein free diet.

If you’re unsure about whether you should be tested for coeliac disease, take the Coeliac UK online assessment for coeliac disease. This short questionnaire will take you through the symptoms of coeliac disease and other risk factors and makes a recommendation on whether or not you should ask your GP for a blood test. Take the online assessment now.

Fertility

There is no extra risk of infertility problems for most women with coeliac disease who are following a gluten free diet. However, undiagnosed or untreated coeliac disease may be an underlying cause in cases of unexplained infertility. So when testing for coeliac disease, this should be considered.

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