In honor of Celiac Disease Awareness Month, Mum Mum’s has been discussing exactly what celiac disease is as well as how to cope. Since it can be complex to discover celiac disease and so many people remain undiagnosed, here are the signs and symptoms.
Symptoms of celiac disease vary with quite a bit with some people having no to mild symptoms, and others with mild to severe. If you’ve read our “What is Celiac Disease?” post you know that celiac disease results in the deterioration of the villi of the small intestine, and those villi are imperative for proper digestion of food and absorption of nutrients.
To try to make things simpler, celiac disease symptoms can be broken down into 2 categories: 1) Those due to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies and 2) Those due to malabsorption.
Symptoms of Malnutrition and Vitamin or Nutrient Deficiencies
- Weight loss: Is a direct result of poor absorption of carbohydrates, protein, and fat despite the big appetite many celiacs have because they are always feeling hungry. Weight loss may be masked, however, by fluid retention which occurs in malnutrition because of reduced protein absorption
- Anemia: Due to lack of absorption of vitamin B12 and iron
- Muscle Weakness: Low levels of potassium and magnesium can lead to muscle cramps, fatigue, severe muscle weakness, or numbness or tingling sensations in the legs and arms
- Easy bruising: Lack of absorption of vitamin K can lead to a reduced ability for blood to clot resulting in easy bruising or excessive bleeding
- Nerve Damage (Peripheral Neuropathy): Deficiencies of B12 and thiamin can contribute to nerve damage producing symptoms like poor balance, muscle weakness, tingling or numbness in the arms and legs
- Osteoporosis: Poor absorption of calcium and vitamin D can lead to bone fractures and osteoporosis
- Infertility: Untreated celiac disease can result in infertility in women
Symptoms of Malabsorption
- Fat malabsorption: Although reduced absorption of carbohydrates and protein can occur, fat is the most common malabsorption and produces the most GI symptoms like diarrhea, flatulence, bloating, and fat in the stool (steatorrhea). Fatty stools tend to be greasy, light grey in color, may float, or produce visible oil droplets.
- Lactose intolerance: Because of the loss of villi, lactose intolerance is often seen coupled with celiac disease. Symptoms are similar to fat malabsorption and may include abdominal pain and increased gas or flatulence.
What about Kids?
Celiac disease was thought to primarily affect babies and children although we know this is no longer the case. Infants with celiac tend to have diarrhea, fat in the stool (steatorrhea), abdominal pain, irritability, and failure to grow or thrive with symptoms occurring once gluten has been introduced into a baby’s diet. Children experience the same symptoms but may also be short in stature, gas, and weight loss. The good news is that following a gluten free diet will relieve symptoms for babies and children and they often catch up in height growth. Keep in mind also that gluten intolerance does not always mean celiac disease but can have similar symptoms.
It is important to talk to your health care provider if you suspect you or your child has celiac disease or with any other health concerns. This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to treat or diagnose in any way.