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Celiac Disease Symptoms and Treatments

Symptoms and treatments of celiac disease.

Symptoms and treatments of celiac disease.

Celiac Disease Facts

Celiac disease affects one in every one hundred people, which is 1% of the worldwide population. In addition, 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed, so they are at risk for long-term health complications. Up to 83% of people worldwide are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

This is a serious autoimmune disease. A large screening in Italy found 1.6% of the population to have this disease, and Finland found 1.9% of the population to be affected. Globally this disease is increasing in number. According to the University of Chicago Celiac Center, up to 6% of people who struggle with infertility may have celiac disease.

My brother suffers from this disease, and most of the time, when we talk on the phone, he has to hang up suddenly to run to the bathroom. He is on a gluten-free diet, but he has had much difficulty with celiac disease symptoms. I am not sure he is carefully following the diet, but he claims otherwise.

Autoimmune Disease

This is a serious autoimmune disease inherited like all autoimmune diseases. The effect of this disease damages the small intestine. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and a cross between wheat and rye called triticale.

Some skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, also improve when gluten is removed from their diet. The rash on the skin appears on the elbows, torso, scalp, knees and buttocks.

The rash on the skin appears on the elbows, torso, scalp, knees and buttocks.

The rash on the skin appears on the elbows, torso, scalp, knees and buttocks.

Celiac Disease Symptoms

The symptoms and signs for adults and children are somewhat different. The symptoms for adults may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating and gas
  • Constipation

Over one-half of adults with celiac disease also have one of the following disorders:

  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Osteoporosis (bone density loss) or osteomalacia (softening bones)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (Itchy, blistery skin rash)
  • Nervous system conditions may include numbness and tingling in the feet and hands, balance problems and cognitive impairment
  • Fatigue and headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Hyposplenism (reduced functioning of the spleen)

Children's Symptoms

Celiac disease symptoms in children include digestive problems, such as:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Swollen belly
  • Pale, foul-smelling stools

Additional symptoms in children appear due to their inability to absorb nutrients, including:

  • Failure to thrive
  • Weight loss
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Damage to tooth enamel
  • Irritability
  • Short stature
  • Delayed puberty

Possible Complications of Celiac Disease

If celiac disease is left untreated, it can lead to the development of other autoimmune diseases.

These include:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Other complications include iron deficiency anemia, gallbladder malfunctions, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage and lactose intolerance.

Neurological and other conditions that may occur include:

  • Migraines
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart disease
  • Intestinal cancersFamily member with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Down syndrome or Turner syndrome

Other risk factors include the following medical conditions:

  • Addison’s disease
  • Microscopic colitis (lymphocytic or collagenous colitis

Gluten-Free Diet

Unfortunately, there is no pharmaceutical treatment for this disease. There is only one way to treat celiac disease at this time: to refrain from consuming any gluten products. This is essential for managing symptoms.

This does not only mean food products such as medications, lip balm, vitamins and supplements, hair and skin products and toothpastes can all contain gluten. It is important to always read the labels for the following terms in addition to wheat:

  • Spelt
  • Durum
  • Einkorn
  • Emmer
  • Kamut

Also, avoid barley, rye, triticale and sometimes oats (naturally gluten-free, but they may be contaminated during production with wheat, barley or rye). Naturally, gluten-free food includes:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Non-processed meats
  • Poultry and fish
  • Eggs
  • Beans, seeds and nuts in their natural, unprocessed forms
  • Most low-fat milk products

Rice, cornmeal, arrowroot, flax, gluten-free flour (made from rice, soy, potatoes, beans or corn), hominy, buckwheat, amaranth, soy, quinoa, sorghum, millet and tapioca are also considered safe.

Alcoholic beverages that are made from naturally gluten-free ingredients, such as grapes or juniper berries, can be labeled gluten-free. An alcoholic beverage made from a gluten-containing grain should carry a label stating the beverage was "processed," "treated," or "crafted" to remove gluten. Other alcoholic beverages may not be safe.

Foods to avoid include beer and ale, bread, cake, pie, cereals, communion wafers, croutons, french fries, malt, matzo, pasta, hot dogs, processed lunch meats, salad dressings, sauces (especially soy sauce), seasoned rice mix, chips, soups, bouillon, soup mixes and vegetables with sauces.

Biopsy of small bowel showing coeliac disease manifested by blunting of villi, crypt hypertrophy, and lymphocyte infiltration of crypts

Biopsy of small bowel showing coeliac disease manifested by blunting of villi, crypt hypertrophy, and lymphocyte infiltration of crypts

Home and Restaurant Food

Eating in restaurants may also be difficult. Suggestions include eating salads with no croutons while using oil and vinegar for a dressing.

If you live with people that do not have celiac disease, then store food separately. Wash dishes and cooking utensils very thoroughly. Keep counters clean.

You will not be eating foods rich in iron, calcium, fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate. Some gluten-free foods have higher sugar and fat content. Reading labels is essential. Your doctor may also provide you with a list of nutrient-rich alternatives.

Final Thoughts

If you have celiac disease and can follow a gluten-free diet, you should enjoy improved health that includes improved gastrointestinal health and a more active lifestyle. Certainly, following a gluten-free diet will alleviate the symptoms, and you will feel better.

Medical studies are taking place worldwide to find solutions for this disease. Beyond Celiac also has books that have diet suggestions for the holidays.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 20, 2021:

Hi Bill,

Diet is really the only way to void those symptoms as there is no medication that will treat this disease effectively. I do think some people avoid gluten s they feel better that way.

Thanks for your comments. Have a good day!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on October 20, 2021:

Great info, Pam. I have heard of Celiac disease, but wasn’t really sure what it’s symptoms were. We know of a few people who avoid gluten but I’m not sure if it’s due to having this disease or they just feel better by avoiding gluten. Looks like the best way to deal with this is through diet. Great info as always and thank you for the education.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 20, 2021:

Hi Doris,

I did not know how this disease started, so thank for that information. You certainly have a lot of family that has suffered from this disease and colon cancer. I am glad you are on a diet that will give you a better quality of health and hopefully prevent colon cancer.

I think my brother probably suffered from this disease for years before he knew what was wrong.

Thank you for sharing so much about your family and all that happened. I hope you stay heather in the future.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 20, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I am glad you liked this article about Celiac disease. I appreciate your comments.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on October 19, 2021:

Great article, Pamela. Since I have celiac, I'd thought about writing an article on the disease, but you do a better job since you are in the medical field. I can only go at it from my own experience standpoint. It is one cause of colon cancer. The celiac came through my mother's family. My mother, an uncle and grandmother all died of colon cancer. My mother suffered most of her adult life and died without knowing that she had celiac. After I discovered that I had it, I knew what her problem was. My two sons also got it from me. And yes, it did stunt our growth. My mom and I are the two shortest women (5 ft tall) in a family of mostly normal size persons on both sides. One of my sons is short, but the other was average. After I went on the gluten free diet, within a couple of weeks the bloating and indigestion stopped. If we'd known my mother had celiac, perhaps her cancer could have been detected at an early age and not been fatal. She was 88 when she died, but her mother died at 44.

Due to today's political correctness, most people aren't told that celiac originated in a Jewish tribe thousands of years ago. An old VA doctor, who probably was Jewish, told us that. But with intermarriages all over the globe, that gene is being passed down through all races and cultures now.

Babies today are being tested for all kinds of inherited maladies. I wish they'd test babies for celiac before the child begins to exhibit symptoms. I had symptoms for as long as I can remember, but I found out it was celiac only about seven years ago.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 19, 2021:

I didn't know that people with Down syndrome have an increased risk of experiencing celiac disease. Thank you for sharing the important information in your article, Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Maria,

I am glad you found this article to be informative, especially since you cousin has this disease.

I appreciate your comments. Take care.

Maria Logan Montgomery from Coastal Alabama, UsA on October 19, 2021:

Hi Pamela, My cousin has celiac disease, so I was especially interested in reading this article. It was very informative. Thank you for writing it.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Devika,

I am glad you found new information in this article. I agree that it is good to know the symptoms for anyone.

I was a RN for many years, which is why I am interesting in medical issues. I appreciate your comments, as always.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Linda,

The symptoms are similar. I think they can do a biopsy to diagnose the disease, but I think much of the time people are advised to go gluten free to see if their disease symptoms improve.

Thank you for your comments. Take care!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Peggy,

The diet is restrictive, but there is really no other choice if you don't want to be miserable. My brother does better sometimes, but I don't think he always follows the diet carefully.

I appreciate your nice comments. Hope you're having a good day.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 19, 2021:

Pamela99 You have informed me about this disease in detail. I heard a lot about it but learned a lot from you. Both adults and children symptoms are worth knowing of and you are good at what you do on health topics.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 19, 2021:

Pamela I have friends (husband and wife) who both have this disease. Perhaps both of them having it makes meal-planning easier. I'm a little confused though. How is this diagnosed? It seems to me (novice) that many of the symptoms sound like IBS.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2021:

Hi Pamela,

You so such a great job of informing us about diseases and medical issues. Celiac disease would be a tough one to have. At least there are ways to make people feel better by way of diet, although it is quite restrictive. I hope your brother is doing as well as possible.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Kyler,

It sounds like you don't need a doctor since changing your diet has worked so well. If you had the bulk of the symptoms I think you probably do have Celiac disease. I would congratulation your girlfriend for deciding on the healthier diet.

I don't think the doctors have helped my brother. He spent years with health problems but didn't know why. There are so many gluten free foods now, and that helps.

I am glad you like this article, and I always want to increase awareness of illnesses. Thanks so much for your generous comments.

Kyler J Falk from California on October 19, 2021:

Though I cannot be diagnosed as having celiac disease due to not being willing to undergo diet-related studies anymore, I have self-diagnosed myself with the condition, or more accurately my girlfriend forced me to switch up my diet under the assumption all of my symptoms would go away if I did. Amazingly, and despite doctors wanting to test for celiac last and dissuading me from doing the tests at all, all of my symptoms have gone away and I am much healthier.

I had almost every single symptom, yet doctors would not touch the diagnosis of celiac until I had already given up and turned to self-diagnosing. For years I thought I was going to die, and then wham, my girlfriend up and says I'm done eating gluten. "Who am I to argue the queen of my realm?" I asked myself, and have since stuck to a gluten-free diet.

Any time I break the diet, even slightly, my joints begin to hurt super bad. Then my restroom habits go from comfortable retreats to explosive engagements out of a fecal-based war film. It's all downhill from there.

This is a very great article, and I'm happy to see more awareness brought to the community at large through your article.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 19, 2021:

Pamela, you're welcome.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Misbah,

I am glad that you learned a lot from my article.

I am doing well, still recovering but improving. I appreciate your comments. I hope you have a great day too.

Much love and many blessings, my friend.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I am glad to hear you learn something new from my medical articles. I try to make diseases or conditions more understandable for people who are not in the medical field. I appreciate that you said I achieved this goal.

Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Liza,

I am glad you found this article to be so informative. That is my goal, and to make medical issues easier to understand. I was surprised to see the statistics of the undiagnosed people also. I never like finding something like that.

Thank you so much for your generous and very nice comments.

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on October 19, 2021:

Dear Pamela, I have learned a lot from your article today. Thank you for writing this helpful and informative article. I hope you are doing well. Have a great day.

Many Blessings and Love to you as always.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 19, 2021:

I've heard of it but had no idea what it was. Your articles are always fascinating, and I always learn something new. In addition, you write them in such a way that they can be understood by the non-medical among us, and for that I say THANK YOU!

Liza from USA on October 19, 2021:

Pamela, this is a great educational and informative on celiac disease. I am dismayed at the fact that millions of people around the world are undiagnosed. I think a lot of us benefit from your thorough and well-written article, Pamela. I really appreciated you've shared the article. Have a great day!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Rosina,

I am glad the article was was easy to understand, and since this is new to you that probably means it does not run in your family.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Chitrangada,

I am glad you are aware of Celiac disease now. The fact that you didn't know about this disease probably means this disease does not run in your family.

I am glad you found the article informative. I appreciate your comments.

Rosina S Khan on October 19, 2021:

Thank you, Pamela, for sharing information about Celiac Disease. The symptoms, treatment, and the need for Gluten-free diet were very helpful and educative. Gratitude for this oustanding contribution.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on October 19, 2021:

Hello Pamela!

Thanks for sharing another well explained and informative medical article. I am not aware of the Celiac disease, and therefore this information is very helpful to me.

Thank you for spreading the awareness. Have a great day.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Miebakagh,

I know you live a healthy lifestyle, and that is very good. Thank you for your nice comments.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 19, 2021:

Pamela, the Celia Disease is very complex. I'm careful not to be it's subject. Thanks for the good read.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Umesh,

I am glad this is new information for you, and that your family doesn't have this disease. I appreciate your nice comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2021:

Hi Manjah,

I am glad you found this article helpful. Thank you for your comments.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on October 19, 2021:

I didn't hear about this and not seen anyone having this disorder in my family or around us in our place so it is a new information for me.

Anyway, this is a very elaborate and detailed article about this ailment and good advice for the food to be taken. Thanks Pamela, for sharing this information.

manjah zakaria from marrakech on October 19, 2021:

Helpful article Pamela, thank you for the great information.