Celiac Disease: symptoms, causes and management


Celiac disease is an immune disease in which people can’t eat gluten because it will damage their small intestine. If you have celiac disease and eat foods with gluten, your immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It may also be in other products like vitamins and supplements, hair and skin products, toothpastes, and lip balm.

It affects each person differently. Symptoms may occur in the digestive system, or in other parts of the body. One person might have diarrhea and abdominal pain, while another person may be irritable or depressed. Irritability is one of the most common symptoms in children.


It can cause a wide range of symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms change. Sometimes you have no symptoms at all.

Celiac disease in infants and young children

  1. Digestive symptoms. These include abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation.
  2. Feeling irritable, fretful, emotionally withdrawn, or excessively dependent.
  3. Failure to grow and gain weight.
  4. Damage to tooth enamel.
  5. Obesity or overweight.

Celiac disease in teenagers

  1. Digestive symptoms such as diarrhea and constipation.
  2. Delayed puberty.
  3. Slowed growth and short height.
  4. Hair loss.

Celiac disease in adults

  1. Digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea or constipation (less likely than children).
  2. General feeling of poor health, including fatigue and bone or joint pain.
  3. Irritability, anxiety, and depression.
  4. Missed menstrual periods in women.
  5. Osteoporosis (loss of calcium from the bones) and anemia.

Other common symptoms in people of any age with this disease include:

  1. Lactose intolerance — a problem digesting milk products.
  2. Dermatitis herpetiformis — an itchy, blistery skin problem.
  3. Canker sores in the mouth.


Doctors and researchers don’t know exactly what causes such disease. It is more common in people who:
  1. Have a family member with such disease. If 1 member of your family has it, about 1 out of 10 other family members likely has it.
  2. Have an autoimmune disease. This could include type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune thyroid or liver disease, Addison’s disease, or Sjogren’s syndrome.
  3. Have a genetic disorder such as Down syndrome or Turner’s syndrome.

If you have this disease, you probably won’t know it right away. You may have celiac disease for a while without getting sick. Then something can trigger, or “turn on,” celiac disease. This could be severe stress, physical injury, infection, childbirth, or surgery.

How is celiac disease diagnosed?

Celiac disease can be hard to diagnose. Its symptoms are similar to other digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome. But blood tests can help your doctor to diagnose celiac disease. If your blood test indicates that you might have celiac disease, an intestinal biopsy is often done. This takes a small piece of tissue from your small intestine using a thin tube. Positive biopsy results will confirm that you have celiac disease. Diagnosis of dermatitis herpetiformis with a positive blood test will also confirm it.

Can celiac disease be prevented or avoided? 

There is no way to prevent or avoid getting This disease.

Celiac disease treatment

Celiac disease is serious. Fortunately you can control this disease by following a gluten-free diet. This means you remove gluten completely from your diet. By doing this, you can reverse the damage caused by celiac disease. You’ll feel better. But if you “cheat” on your diet, the damage will come back. Sometimes you may not feel sick right away, so you think it’s okay to eat gluten. But it’s not. People who follow a gluten-free diet avoid all foods that contain:

  • wheat
  • barley
  • rye
  • spelt
  • triticale products, including many breads, pastas, cereals and processed foods.

Foods that do not contain gluten and are safe to eat include:

  • rice
  • corn
  • oats
  • quinoa
  • buckwheat
  • millet.

Some oat products can be contaminated with wheat gluten. Some people choose to avoid oats because of this.

Gluten sometimes appears in foods or places you wouldn’t expect:

  1. It is used as a thickening agent in many gravies and sauces.
  2. It is sometimes used in medicines. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking a new medicine. This includes vitamins and supplements.
  3. It can be found in lip balm, lipstick, and other cosmetics.

Many restaurants offer gluten-free options. Grocery stores usually have whole gluten-free sections. So plenty of gluten-free products can be found.

Living with celiac disease

Learning to be gluten-free may be difficult at first. It will take time for you and your family to learn how to avoid gluten. You’ll have to learn to read ingredient labels and identify the foods that contain gluten to avoid such disease. You’ll have to be careful when you buy foods at the grocery store, or when you eat out. You’ll probably have to learn some new cooking recipes.

You may also find it helpful to meet with a registered dietitian for more information on celiac disease. A dietician can help you learn what foods to avoid, how to read food labels, and how to make healthy substitutions. Ask your doctor for help finding a certified registered dietitian in your area.




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