Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects millions of individuals worldwide. It is triggered by the consumption of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. While gastrointestinal symptoms are commonly associated with celiac disease, the condition’s impact extends far beyond the digestive system. There over 200 potential symptoms that may indicate the presence of celiac disease and an array of diverse ways this condition can manifest.
Approximately 1 out of every 133 people in the United States has been diagnosed with celiac disease but that is estimated to be much higher. Those who go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed are part of a staggering number of people who may be suffering silently. There is also a percentage of people who are Asymptomatic. Asymptomatic people do not exhibit outwards symptoms, but as they consume gluten, it slowly destroys the villi of the small intestine. Undiagnosed celiac disease can lead to possible intestinal cancer.
The Symptoms Explained
Symptoms of celiac disease can range from gastrointestinal issues, nutritional symptoms, neurological, skin conditions and more. Let’s highlight the most common symptoms of celiac disease that people report:
- Abdominal Pain: A persistent discomfort or cramping in the stomach area.
- Bloating: A feeling of fullness or swelling in the abdomen.
- Diarrhea: Frequent loose or watery bowel movements.
- Constipation: Difficulty passing stools or infrequent bowel movements.
- Nausea: A sensation of queasiness or an inclination to vomit.
- Vomiting: The act of expelling stomach contents through the mouth.
- Gas: Excessive flatulence or burping.
- Pale, Foul-Smelling Stools: Abnormal stool color and odor indicative of malabsorption.
- Iron-Deficiency Anemia: A condition characterized by a lack of red blood cells due to insufficient iron.
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency: An inadequate level of vitamin B12, leading to anemia and neurological issues.
- Calcium Deficiency: Insufficient calcium levels, potentially resulting in weakened bones and teeth.
- Vitamin D Deficiency: A shortage of vitamin D, leading to weakened bones and compromised immune function.
- Folate Deficiency: A deficiency in folic acid, essential for cell division and DNA synthesis.
Weight and Growth Issues
- Unexplained Weight Loss: A significant drop in body weight without an obvious cause.
- Failure to Thrive (in Children): Slow or halted growth and development in young children.
- Headaches: Recurrent or severe head pain.
- Migraines: Intense headaches accompanied by other symptoms like nausea and sensitivity to light.
- Seizures: Uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain resulting in convulsions or loss of consciousness.
- Peripheral Neuropathy: Numbness, tingling, or pain in the extremities due to nerve damage.
- Balance Problems: Difficulty maintaining equilibrium, leading to unsteadiness or falls.
- Brain Fog: Cognitive difficulties including forgetfulness, confusion, and trouble concentrating.
- Anxiety: Persistent feelings of unease, worry, or fear.
- Depression: Prolonged feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities.
- Dermatitis Herpetiformis: A blistering, itchy skin rash often found on the elbows, knees, and buttocks.
- Eczema: Inflammatory skin condition characterized by red, itchy patches.
- Psoriasis: Chronic skin condition resulting in red, scaly patches.
- Alopecia: Hair loss that can occur in patches or across the entire scalp.
- Mouth Ulcers: Painful sores in the mouth that can make eating and speaking uncomfortable.
Joint and Muscle Pain
- Joint Pain: Discomfort, tenderness, or swelling in the joints.
- Muscle Pain: Aching or soreness in the muscles.
- Osteoporosis: A condition characterized by weakened bones and increased risk of fractures.
- Osteopenia: A precursor to osteoporosis, involving lower bone density than normal.
The only treatment for celiac disease is to adhere to a gluten-free diet for life. That may sound alarming at first, but there are organizations like the National Celiac Association that offer support and information to those diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Those who have celiac disease are part of a community who offer advice, tips and information to each other around the globe. Thankfully, there are also programs like the Gluten-Free Food Program who provide certification to companies who produce gluten-free food. The GFFP also hosts gf-finder.com, our website that is dedicated to all of our program brands and their certified products. No other certification program does that!
Wrapping it up
This is just a glimpse into the wide array of symptoms that can be associated with celiac disease. Remember, not everyone with celiac disease will experience all of these symptoms, and some may only have a few. If you think you could have celiac disease seek professional medical advice and testing. Testing is crucial for accurate diagnosis and proper management. Early intervention can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with celiac disease.
For more information on celiac disease and its symptoms, visit nationalceliac.org