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Celiac Disease Facts

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


Facts of Celiac Disease

Celiac disease affects one in every one hundred people, which is one percent of the worldwide population. In addition, two and a half million Americans are undiagnosed, so they are at risk for long-term health complications.

My brother suffers from this disorder, and most of the time when we talk on the phone he has to hang up 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. In addition, one of our Hubpage writers has been recently diagnosed with this disease.

This is a serious autoimmune disease, which is inherited. The effects 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 the 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 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)
Villous Atrophy of the Small Intestine.

Villous Atrophy of the Small Intestine.

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 and include:

  • Failure to thrive
  • Weight loss
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Damage to tooth enamel
  • Irritability
  • Short stature
  • Delayed puberty
  • Neurological symptoms that include attention-deficit disorder, hyperactive disorder (ADHD), headaches, lack of muscle coordination, learning disabilities and seizures

Celiac Disease in Children - Dr. Elaine Barfield

Possible Complications of Celiac Disease

If celiac disease is left untreated it can lead to the development of other autoimmune diseases.

These include:

  • Type one 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 cancers

Celiac Disease Risk Factors

Risk factors include the following:

  • Family member with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Down syndrome or Turner syndrome
  • Addison’s disease
  • Microscopic colitis (lymphocytic or collagenous colitis)

Components of Gluten-Free Diet

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 includes:

  • 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.

Damaged Intestinal Lining

Damaged Intestinal Lining

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. It may be smart to eat in a restaurant when they are less busy to better assess your needs.

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.

Celiac Disease Symptom Checklist

Problems with a Gluten-free Diet

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.

Certainly, gluten-free foods tend to be more expensive, which is a problem for many patients.

Final Thoughts

If you have celiac disease and can follow a gluten-free diet you should enjoy improved health, improved gastrointestinal health and an improved athletic performance. 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. If you are interested in participating in a study, click on study. 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.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 15, 2020:

Hi Rajan,

I hope this article does help those with this disease I am glad you found this article very informative.

Thank you for your comments.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 14, 2020:

Very informative. This article should help a lot many people who have this condition as you have broken the information into easily understandable bits.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 11, 2020:

Hi Peggy, It is good no one in your family has this disease as it is fairly miserable if you eat any gluton I appreciate your comments.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 11, 2020:

Fortunately, no one in my family has ever suffered from this disease. I had never given thought to the fact of gluten being in such items as toothpaste or cosmetics. It is good that more products are being made gluten-free assuming people can pay for the increased costs of purchasing them.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 27, 2019:

Hi Jason, Thank you so much for your generous comments. I enjoy writing the medical articles as a retired RN.

Jason Behm from Cebu, Philippines on November 26, 2019:

Well researched and informative. This is very helpful for those who are suffering from such disease and for those who have no idea about it. Keep educating and giving useful information.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 26, 2019:

Hi Alyssa, I think the non-food items were a surpirse to most people. I know they were a surpirse to me, which is why I so some research. I think this is good information for anyone that has a GI problem in case it is gluten related.

Thanks for commenting and sharing the information. I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving.

Alyssa from Ohio on November 25, 2019:

Very interesting and informative! I can't imagine having to live with this, it would be incredibly challenging. As many have stated, I also didn't realize so many non-food items contained gluten. I enjoyed learning more about this and I'm going to share it for others to read as well. Have a wonderful week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 24, 2019:

Hi Nithya, I absolutely agree with you about pricing. Thank you so much for your generous comments.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on November 24, 2019:

Thank you for sharing facts about celiac disease. A clear, informative, and well-presented article about this disease. Gluten free foods must be reasonably priced for those suffering with this disease, will make life easier for them.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 24, 2019:

Dear Maria, Ruby asked to write this article, and when I do the research I find I know so little, even when I think I am well informed. I am glad Ruby is doing well.

I hope this article is helpful to your family and friends.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Love and hugs back to you.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on November 24, 2019:

Dear Pamela,

I was also shocked that medications, lip balm, vitamins and supplements, hair and skin products and toothpaste can all contain gluten.

The fact that communion wafers have gluten is interesting to me. I intend to share this post with some family and friends who suffer from celiac disease.

So glad that our Ruby is dealing with this issue so gracefully.

Love and hugs,


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 24, 2019:

Hi Linda, I am glad more gluten-free food is available and I do hope the price comes down too. I always appreciate your very nice comments.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 23, 2019:

Thank you for sharing a great description of celiac disease, Pamela. The variety of gluten-free foods in the stores in my area has increased significantly over the last few years. A lot of it is more expensive than the equivalent food containing gluten, which is a great shame for people who must avoid the substance. A few gluten-free foods are sold for a more reasonable price, though. I hope this trend continues.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 23, 2019:

Hi Chitrangada, I hope this article does help someone who may not be aware of the symptoms of this disease. Thank you for your very generous comments. Have a good weekend.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on November 23, 2019:

Excellent article about the Celiac disease.

Very important points to be noted, if someone is suffering from this condition, but may not be aware of it. You have provided valuable information, with symptoms, risk factors etc. to spread awareness amongst the readers.

Thanks for sharing this well researched and informative article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 22, 2019:

Hi Ms Dora, I am glad you have some new information since you have gluten intolerance. I didn't know so many other medical conditions could also be related to gluten intolerance.

I hope you are feeling well. Thank you for your comments.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 21, 2019:

Thanks for all this information. I have gluten intolerance but have been told that I do not have celiac disease. Your section on possible complications make me take this condition seriously. Interesting, because it's good to know.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2019:

Hi Clive, There are a lot of different types of stomach disorders, and I don't think this was a recognized disease until the more recent years.

I am glad you found the article informative, and your comments are appreciated.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2019:

Hi Liz, It has taken a long time to have a good supply of gluten free foods on the shelves. I think you are right and the disease was not recognized until recent years. Maybe there has been too much gluten in our foods before.

Thank you so much for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2019:

Hi Linda, My sister has Hashimoto's disease also. I am glad to hear you don't have celiac disease.

Your comments are appreciated.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on November 21, 2019:

Very Informative. Some of those symptoms are also found in other kind of ailments.

Liz Westwood from UK on November 21, 2019:

I know people who suffer with this. It has taken a long time, but in the past few years intolerances have been recognised more and shops sell a bigger range of gluten free products.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on November 21, 2019:

I have Hashimoto's and I have reduced the amount of gluten. I do take gluten aid that helps the digestive and has lowered the TPO antibodies. Luckily I've had a blood test but don't have Celiac disease.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2019:

Hi Flourish, I did not know about the nonfood items, except for some medications, until I did the research either. Thanks for commenting.

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 21, 2019:

You blew me away with the nonfood items that have gluten in them.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2019:

Hi Linda, Yes, I was surprised that so many things had gluten. I am glad no one is your family has this disease. Of course, I appreciate your comments.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on November 21, 2019:

Thank you for explaining this disease. I am fortunate that no one in my family has this condition; it's amazing how many food (and non-food) items contain or come in contact with gluten.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2019:

Hi Garry, I really learned a lot about the numerous products that have gluten from my research and from the problems my brother has also. it is awful for those people with this disease. Thanks for commenting.

Garry Saunders from South Africa on November 21, 2019:

I know of someone who can't have anything with gluten in it because they have Celiac Disease. If you hear how meticulous you need to be about checking labels, you'll be surprised to see how many products have gluten in them!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2019:

Hi Ruby, I found so much more about this disease than I had known. It is rather complicated when you look at all the things that can happen if someone does not quit eating gluten.

My brother has complained about the diet, but he also says there are so many more foods available now then there were when he was first told not to eat gluten.

Ruby, I am glad to know your are feeling better and that you found this article helpful. I appreciate all your comments, and I am glad you got a pizza.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on November 21, 2019:

I feel that you were writing my life history. I have the disease, but feeling so much better since omitting gluten from my diet. I might say that the food industry is making many foods without gluten. They are more expensive. I even had a delicious pizza this week, instead of it costing & 6.00 it cost & 13.00, but it was well worth it when one likes pizza as much as I do. You were correct when you wrote that there is no cure. My Doctor said that the only way to heal is eating gluten-free foods. Thank you so much for researching Celiac Disease. I learned from reading your article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2019:

Hi Eric, Certainly the people with this disease have a poor quality of life. I hope doctors can help. This is one of those diseases that is not always easily diagnosed as there are too many GI diseases i think.

Thanks for your comments, Eric. Have a great day!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 21, 2019:

Pamela I just feel bad for folks with this disease. Seems to me it just plain is terrible --- and yet correctable.Maybe doctors are more in tune with it these days? I hope so.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2019:

Hi Rebecca, I am glad you found the article informative. Thank you for your comments.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 21, 2019:

Great article, so informative. I have a neice with celiac

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2019:

Hi Bill, There are numerous diseases out there and you are very lucky and blessed to be healthy. Thanks for your comments, as alway

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 21, 2019:

Thank you for shedding light on this disease. With each of your health articles, I feel a bit more lucky and blessed for being so healthy.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 21, 2019:

Hi Lorna, It seems like this disease is on the increase, which could be due to the Western diet according to one article I read There is really no study that spells this information that I could find.

I am sorry to know you have two friends with this disease. I know my brother sure has suffered. He is unmarried and lives with his son, so I am not sure about his diet, although he says he does not eat gluten. He even bought some spices to make chile that are gluten free.

I appreciate your generous comments.

Lorna Lamon on November 21, 2019:

This is a very informative article about a condition which I feel is on the increase. I have two friends who suffer with this disease, one of whom has MS which was a direct result of late diagnosis. It is a very debilitating and painful condition which also affects the persons life in so many ways. Thank you for drawing attention to this condition Pamela and for another excellent article.

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