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Signs of Celiac Disease

4 Common Signs of Celiac Disease

Originally believed to be a "rare childhood syndrome," celiac disease — an immune reaction to eating gluten — is now known to be a common genetic disorder affecting people all over the world, including more than 2 million people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The symptoms of celiac disease are varied, depending on the person's age and the degree of damage to the small intestine. Some people with celiac disease, in fact, may have no symptoms but can still develop complications of the disease over time. Meanwhile, Circle of Moms member Taryn A. says for her mother, the disease manifests itself in diarrhea, while her sister gets intensely constipated, and her cousin gets rashes all over her body. "You'd think that since they're mother and daughter their symptoms would be alike, but in actuality they're exactly opposite."

The risk in going untreated is that the longer a person goes undiagnosed, the greater the chance of developing long-term complications like malnutrition, liver diseases, and cancers, NIH says. To help you figure out whether your child should be tested for celiac disease, here we've summarized the condition's four common signs.


1. Genetic Indicators Exist

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. Consequently, people with celiac disease — or their relatives — tend to have other diseases in which the immune system attacks the body's healthy cells and tissues. For instance, the connection between celiac disease and type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease, autoimmune liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Addison's disease or Sjögren's syndrome may be genetic, according to the NIH.

Mom Kathy recommends that if you suspect your child might have the disease, you should look into getting genetic testing for yourself and the father, especially because "celiac seems to take no classic look with anyone," and "because celiac is highly genetic and highly familial." She says: "If you guys carry the gene, then there is a huge clue about your baby. If you don't, then there is no possible way she could have this disease."

2. Slower Growth and Development

When people who have celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system triggers a reaction in their small intestine. Over time, this creates inflammation that damages the small intestine's lining and causes malabsorption of nutrients, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Eventually, no matter how much food a person eats, they become malnourished. And when this happens to children, it can affect their growth and development. Mom Tonya says that in addition to suffering from diarrhea and fevers, one of her son's symptoms was "failure to thrive (he is very small for his age)."

3. Tummy Aches

In addition to having an inflamed small intestine, or perhaps as a result of it, people with the disease often suffer from tummy aches. Claire says her 7-year-old daughter has had tummy problems since she was one, while Lisa C. says her three children had stomach pains and also frequently threw up.

With younger children, it might be difficult to determine when their tummy hurts and whether they have celiac disease, Christine says. Kids may be "too young to tell you if she feels the slightest bit of discomfort as a result" of eating gluten. But parents can "pick up on even little things, like being more gassy than usual, or the mood swings that occur" because of the stomach discomfort, she says.

4. Toilet Issues

There also can be toilet troubles, several Circle of Moms members whose children have celiac disease advise. Laurie's daughter "had persistent diarrhea her whole life and GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), but once she stuck to a gluten-free diet "her diarrhea has disappeared and she seems happier and less gassy."

Jennifer L.'s son had similar issues. She says he "never had a normal BM until he was gluten-free." She adds: "My son at almost 3 now sleeps through the night most of the time, but if he gets some gluten he is up in the night with cramps."

Remember, it's really hard to diagnose celiac disease just from the symptoms, which is why if you suspect your child might have the disease, you need to talk to your pediatrician about having a blood test to measure the level of autoantibodies, Taryn A. says. If that comes back positive, an endoscopy can confirm the diagnosis, and your pediatrician then can prescribe dietary changes, Circle of Moms members conclude.

Join The Conversation
Julie14866933 Julie14866933 4 years
I have Celiac Disease and my five year old daughter has it. My son has extremely high genetic markers but does not test positive currently. My husband does not have it. Gluten free is not just a diet, it is a way of life. Many articles and people (even some Drs) over simplify Celiac Disease. It can be very debilitating and dangerous. I had it for 13 years before being diagnosed (I was misdiagnosed with many things, including Chron's Disease). Due to this, I have osteoporosis, severe neurapathy of the arms, hands, feet, and legs. Chronic pain issues, reflux, eisoniphillic esophogitus, and chronic infections, low blood sugar and many deficiencies. I am currently in the process of getting social security disability. My daughter screamed and profusely vomited for the first 2 1/5 years of her life. They treated her for acid reflux, as they had not yet diagnosed me and were not looking at Celiac. They said she had colic and reflux. She was in constant pain. By the time they diagnosed her Celiac, she had ulcers all through her intestines, severe barely controllable reflux, behavior problems, deficiencies, etc. The reflux caused her adnoids to go bad and chronic ear infections. The ear infections caused hearing loss and speech problems. The adnoids caused sleep apnea and night terrors. I am happy to say that today she is doing much better, 2 1/5 years after her diagnosis.! She can ear again, she speaks well, and she is healthy and happy and completely normal behavior and intelligence wise. I am better than I was, but still have constant problems and am disabled. I wish that more focus was put on how bad undiagnosed Celiac Disease can be. Only a small portion of Celiacs are diagnosed. Others are misdiagnosed with hundreds of things that mimic Celiac. A lot of the mainstream thinks that it's just a fad diet, or if they do believe, they think you always get 100 % better with no lasting effects. Getting diagnosed and remaining fully gluten free, including dealing with cross contamination issues is very important. Even products that touch or go in your mouth (toothpaste, gum, makeup, etc) and on your hands (soap, lotion, nail polish, etc) must be gluten free. Diagnosis and treatment (the sooner the better) cans save your life. With it, you can be like my daughter. Without it, in time, you can be like me. This needs to be understood by the word.
ursulariches ursulariches 4 years
I became aware of the book wheat bellies yesterday and looked into it. There is gluten in our flour comprising of glutenin polymers and gliaden monomeric proteins. The reason given by the author of this book for many of our health problems is the newer types of wheat bred in the 60s. These wheats were bred with gama rays, with UV light, with poison and so altered and bred using forced engineering. Our once high stalks of wheat over 4ft enede up 18" high. Some possible solutions to the intolerance of the newer type of gliaden in gluten are using thoroughly fermented SOURDOUGH baked bread or old fashioned wheat varieties like spelt, einkorn, emmer and red fife... there are other varieties too. You could try both sourdough AND older varieties of wheat if you want to. I bought a sourdough spelt loaf today and am experimenting with my diet this summer to see if my health & energy benefit and if my hayfever & persistent cough go away. I bought the book wheat belly and look forward to receiving it soon.
MichelleB40955 MichelleB40955 4 years
@Keegan1213 I have a son with gluten intolerance, and as long as other people - my husband, extended family and friends - are in our house, they will also eat gluten-free. If they are off on their own, they can choose to eat what they want, but I can't run the risk of cross-contamination with my son's allergy. It's a learning curve for all of them, but it's been over a year living this way, and things are just fine. Maybe that's what your step kids are dealing with at their mother's house. It makes sense to me...
MichelleBrennan49043 MichelleBrennan49043 4 years
When a baby changes from milk to solid food their "poo" would become more solid, as most peoples are so when my daughters didn't by 2 years old I investigated (she was either constipated or the total opposite and suffered with stomach pains). Because a friend of mine was intolerant of gluten (though she wasn't a coeliac) that is the first thing I considered. It was a good choice as once I had cut gluten out of my daughters diet there was no longer a problem. I therefore took her to the doctors, told him what I had done and had it medically confirmed with a blood test. My daughter is not a coeliac but, like my friend, has an intolerance to gluten. She is able to eat a small amount without having any problems, but it is very limited, whereas of course a coeliac cannot eat any at all. I since found out I also have an intolerance to wheat that has explained many problems with my health in the past. I have discovered over the past 4 years since my daughter was diagnosed with this intolerance that it is cheaper than you think to buy gluten free products. Instead of looking on the "free from" section of supermarkets, just read the labels on the normal food as a lot of companies have started using rice flour instead of wheat flour in their products - it's cheaper! For instance, I could go to the supermarket and buy a box of gluten free "rice snaps" (same as Rice Krispies) for about £3. Or, on reading the label I discovered that my supermarket's own brand, that costs about £1 a box, is also gluten free. Just a tip there to save you some money. Definately worth reading labels when you go shopping :-)
RebeccaStocking RebeccaStocking 4 years
I have Celiac disease and so does one of my daughters. We do not allow any gluten in the house, and we do not allow any of the other children to eat gluten. This article simplifies and generalizes a lot about Celiac... There are genetic markers, but having the genetic marker does not mean that you have Celiac disease; although you cannot have Celiac disease if you do not have the genetic marker... The blood tests and intestinal biopsies are not 100% accurate. There is non-Celiac gluten intolerance and there are also gluten allergies (which are not Celiac). If you think you may have a gluten problem, talk to your doctor about testing and then doing a gluten challenge (in which you take gluten completely out of the diet for several months and then add it back in and retest).
JeniYetter JeniYetter 4 years
Great post Patricia! As a mom of an 18 year old Celiac, I wish I had known even a teeeeeeeny bit of this information when he was a baby. Our son wasn't diagnosed until he was 13, but by then he'd completely stopped growing. He was the size of an 8 year old. His body was absorbing almost no nutrients. After 6 months on a gluten free diet (NO gluten contamination) he started to grow again. Preparing gluten free meals for him and then regular meals for the rest of the family is no inconvenience to having a happy and healthy child....
JennifervanRiet JennifervanRiet 4 years
Thank you for the information about celiac. As somebody who was recently finally diagnosed as gluten allergic, I can only salute a parent who takes steps while the children are still young enough that damage is not so great. As adult, the pain of the stomach cramps have me writhing in agony, I can imagine how bad it must be for a small person. Gluten-free will have it's fans and it's enemies, like vegetarianism or indeed any other special diet, but for those it works for, it really does work well. I will most definitely watch my kiddies carefully.
Keegan1213 Keegan1213 4 years
My husbands ex wife is MAKING my step-kids eat gluten-free because their STEP DAD eats gluten free. They think we need to also but I refuse because I don't have a problem when I eat gluten. Neither do my step kids!
PattiHayde PattiHayde 4 years
Doctors thought my daughter had it as well, though she does not. All of the symptoms described she had. After almost 2 years I finally tracked it down to GMOs. She is now happy and healthy on a completely organic diet.
CathyPaynterPodvoll CathyPaynterPodvoll 4 years
The symptoms you describe can also be indicative of other autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis. I am surprised that there is no mention of these other diseases when you speak of the symptoms.
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