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Celiac Disease Symptoms and Treatments

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.


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. Up to 6% of people who struggle with infertility may have celiac disease according to the University of Chicago Celiac Center.

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, which is 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.


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 including:

  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Osteoporosis (bone density loss) or osteomalacia (softening bones)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (Itcy, 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 includes 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
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Celiac Disease Symptom Checklist

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, galbladder malfunctions, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage and lactose intolerence.

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 factor include the following medical conditions:

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

Gluten-Free Diet

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

This does not only mean food products 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 include:
  • 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, pastas, 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 a higher sugar and fat content. Reading labels is essential. Your doctor may also provide you with a list of nutrient-rich alternatives.

Celiac Disease: Eating Out

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.

Celiac Disease Questions


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.