Celiac disease is a digestive disorder caused by an abnormal immune reaction to gluten, a protein present in wheat, barley and rye. It is also called celiac spruce or gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Generally, eating foods containing gluten triggers an immune stimulus in the small intestine, over a period of time may damage the small intestine’s lining and prevents it from absorbing nutrients. The damage caused to the intestine may lead to diarrhoea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating, and anaemia and can also result in serious complications.

In children, malabsorption caused due to celiac disease can hinder normal growth and development. There’s no complete cure for celiac disease, however, adhering strictly to a gluten-free diet can help lessen symptoms and promote faster healing.

Celiac Disease Symptoms


Generally, the signs and symptoms of celiac disease vary remarkably in children and adults.

Symptoms In Adults Include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal cramp
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • However, most adults with celiac disease have signs and symptoms unconnected to the digestive system, including:
  • Anaemia, due to iron deficiency
  • Loss of bone density or softening of bone
  • Itchy, skin rashes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nervous system damage such as numbness and tingling sensation in the feet and hands, issues with balance, mobility and cognitive loss.
  • Joint pain
  • Decreased functioning of the spleen

Also Read: 8 Common Signs Associated With Gluten Intolerance, You Should Never Ignore

Symptoms In Children

Children with celiac disease are more prone to have digestive issues, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Swollen tummy
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Pale, foul-smelling stools

Poor nutritional status due to deficiency of nutrients may result in:

  • Failure to survive for infants
  • Loss of tooth enamel
  • Weight loss
  • Anaemia
  • Irritability
  • Short stature
  • Delayed puberty
  • Attention- deficit, hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, lack of muscle coordination and seizures are some of the neurological symptoms seen in children.

Causes Of Celiac Disease

The activity of your genes combined with consuming foods with gluten and other factors can contribute to celiac disease, however, the exact cause is not known. Poor feeding practices, gastrointestinal infections and gut bacteria health may also be a causative factor. In some instances, celiac disease may spurt after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection or emotional stress.

Your body’s immune system overreacts to gluten in food, this stimulus damages the tiny hair-like structure (villi) lining the small intestine. Villi functions to absorb vitamins, minerals, and other essential; nutrients from the food you eat. If villi are damaged, the body is unable to absorb nutrients, no matter how healthy you eat.

Risk Factors

Celiac disease is likely to be more common in people who have:

  • With family history
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Down syndrome or Turner syndrome
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Microscopic colitis
  • Addison's disease

Nonresponsive Celiac Disease

In some people with celiac disease, they don’t react to a gluten-free diet. Nonresponsive celiac disease is caused due to contamination of diet with gluten. These patients should consult with a dietician who can you to plan and avoid all gluten in the diet regimen. These patients might have:

  • Bacteria in the small intestine
  • Microscopic colitis
  • Poor pancreas function
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Difficulty digesting lactose, sucrose and fruits sugars in milk products, table sugar or sugar present in fruits and honey

Refractory Celiac Disease

In rare cases, the intestinal damage caused due to celiac disease doesn’t react to a strict gluten-free diet, this is known as refractory celiac disease. If a person shows signs and symptoms after following a gluten-free diet for 6-12 months, then they may need further evaluation to find out the causative factor for symptoms.


Most people suffering from celiac disease are not aware they have it. The doctor will suggest two specific blood works that can help to diagnose the condition which includes:

Serology testing checks for the presence of antibodies in the blood sample, high levels of certain antibodies indicate an immune stimulus to gluten.

Genetic testing to determine human leukocyte antigens can be used to rule out celiac disease.

It is very essential to get tested for celiac disease before going for a gluten-free diet. Avoiding gluten from the diet may make the blood results to be normal.

If any of these test indicate celiac disease then the doctor will most likely suggest one of the following tests for further evaluation endoscopy or capsule endoscopy.


Adhering to a strict gluten-free diet is the only possible way to manage celiac disease. Apart from wheat, foods that contain gluten, which should be avoided include:

  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Durum
  • Graham flour
  • Malt
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt (a form of wheat)
  • Triticale

Also Read: Gluten Free: 5 Food Groups You Should Eat For A Healthy Gut

A dietitian can help people with celiac disease to plan a healthy and wholesome gluten-free diet. Even minimal amounts of gluten in the diet may be harmful, even if it does not show any symptoms. Look out for hidden sources of gluten in foods, non-food products and medications including:

  • Modified food starch, preservatives and food stabilizers
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Herbal and nutritional supplements
  • Lipstick products
  • Toothpaste and mouthwash

Eliminating gluten from the diet will lessen inflammation slowly in the small intestine, making you feel better and recover well. The doctor may also recommend vitamin and mineral supplements to correct nutritional deficiencies.