Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease to which some people have a genetic predisposition. It involves the small intestine and usually produces issues with the digestive process, although it can cause a wide range of symptoms. People with celiac disease have an intolerance to gliadin, a gluten protein that is in a wide variety of grains including wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. Unfortunately, the symptoms are hard to recognize and may be confused with other, less serious conditions such as indigestion. If not managed appropriately, celiac disease makes the body vulnerable to other diseases such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, epilepsy, migraines, and in extreme cases, intestinal cancer. There is no cure for celiac disease; the only way to manage the condition is to adopt a gluten-free diet.

Loose bowel movements

People with celiac disease can experience chronic loose bowel movements unless they transition to a gluten-free diet. Their stool may be pale, watery, and malodorous. The body does not tolerate gluten and may not absorb fat, iron and other nutrients from food as well as healthy people do. Someone with this condition may become accustomed to passing loose stools and not realize they have the disease. This delay tends to cause complications later on.


Abdominal bloating

Celiac patients also complain of bloating and abdominal fullness. This is another by-product of the impaired digestive process. Impaired digestion leads to the buildup of gases and fluid, mostly in the small intestines. The abdominal pressure thus produced may also cause cramping, pain, and in some cases, nausea. Many people attempt to use over-the-counter medications to alleviate these symptoms, but this is only a stop-gap measure.



About 50 percent of people with Celiac disease report chronic flatulence. When their small intestines are unable to absorb gluten-rich food satisfactorily, sugars like maltose, lactose, and sucrose pass into the colon. There, they ferment and produce hydrogen that is expelled through the rectum as flatulence. This symptom can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing. However, like other symptoms of celiac disease, this may not raise any alarm bells. A person with undiagnosed celiacs may assume they are more flatulent than others and not investigate their symptoms further.


Acid Reflux and Heartburn

Though this is not a classic symptom of celiac disease, many patients with the disease do experience acid reflux and heartburn. It feels like a burning sensation rising in the chest due to acid from the stomach moving up past the lower esophageal sphincter. Patients tend to experience much relief from acid reflux once they eliminate gluten from their diet.



Though the most distinctive sign of celiac disease is loose bowel movements, about 15 percent of people experience constipation when the undigested, unabsorbed food forms stool in the lower end of the small intestine, and the body is only able to absorb moisture from it. This dry, hard stool that may be difficult to pass. People with this symptom do not respond to laxatives, which is a telling sign of a larger problem.


Skin rash

A type of skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), though not a symptom of celiac disease per se, often occurs in persons with it and is triggered by gluten intolerance. This condition is characterized by blisters, usually on the knees, elbows, or buttocks and is often itchy. If a person develops a DH rash alongside other celiac disease symptoms, they should talk to their doctor.


Weakness and fainting spells

Celiac disease impairs the digestive process and leads to malabsorption of nutrients from food. Vital substances like iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12 cannot be absorbed, potentially causing anemia. People with celiac disease may feel weak, lack energy, and experience fainting spells. Anyone who eats a healthy, balanced diet but has anemia should talk to a doctor about testing for celiac disease.


Peripheral neuropathy

Recent studies suggest a connection between celiac disease and peripheral neuropathy. This neurological condition causes pain, numbness, and tingling, most commonly in the feet. Doctors do not yet understand the exact relationship between the two, but more than ten percent of people with celiac disease have this symptom.


Tooth decay

Some celiac patients, most often children, have dental defects such as damage to tooth enamel and tooth discoloration. Children and adults with celiac disease can also develop ulcers in the mouth. Unfortunately, the tooth damage may be irreversible. Adopting a gluten-free diet may help prevent further deterioration but can't undo existing damage.


Musculoskeletal problems

Those with celiac disease often have musculoskeletal problems like joint pain and aching bones. Though it is not clear exactly how having celiac disease affects the joints and bones, some suggest that malabsorption is the culprit. The nutrient deficiencies or autoimmune process experienced by people with celiac disease may impact joint and bone health, thereby generating other health conditions beyond the gastrointestinal.


Menstrual irregularities

In some cases, celiac disease can interfere with a woman's regular menstrual cycle, leading to irregular periods, heavier than normal bleeding, or even amenorrhea (full absence of menstruation). The exact mechanisms behind this connection are still being studied, but the connection underscores the importance of considering celiac disease in the diagnostic process for unexplained menstrual irregularities.

Menstrual pads and tampons on menstruation period calendar with white flowers on lilac background


Anxiety and depression

While it may not be immediately apparent, celiac disease can also take a toll on mental health. Some individuals with this condition may experience otherwise unexplained anxiety, depression, or mood swings. The reasons behind this are multifaceted and may involve nutrient deficiencies, gut inflammation, or even the stress of living with a chronic autoimmune disease. Living with celiacs can create stress when grocery shopping, going out to eat with friends, visiting family for the holidays, or almost anytime there's a meal. Addressing the emotional aspect of celiac disease is crucial for overall well-being.

Young attractive latin woman lying at home living room couch feeling sad tired and worried suffering depression in mental health, problems and broken heart concept.


Unexplained weight loss

One of the more puzzling aspects of celiac disease is unexplained weight loss. Despite maintaining a seemingly healthy diet, individuals with undiagnosed celiac disease might find themselves losing weight. This is often due to the malabsorption of essential nutrients, which can lead to muscle wasting and a decrease in body mass. If you're experiencing unexplained weight loss, it's worth discussing the possibility of celiac disease with your healthcare provider. It could be one of several potential explanations.

Young woman measuring her weight at home


Cognitive impairment

In some cases, celiac disease can manifest with cognitive impairment, which is sometimes colloquially referred to as "brain fog." Individuals may experience difficulties with concentration, memory, and executive function. This cognitive cloudiness is thought to possibly be related to the inflammation and nutritional deficiencies associated with celiac disease. A gluten-free diet may help improve cognitive function over time.

Tired, headache and stress of man in living room with mental health, fatigue and sad problem. Face, depression and frustrated male person with anxiety, brain fog or crisis of failure, mistake or debt


Elevated liver enzymes

Some individuals with celiac disease may exhibit elevated liver enzymes in blood tests that check liver levels. This can indicate liver inflammation or injury, which is sometimes associated with the autoimmune response triggered by the ingestion of gluten. Monitoring liver function is crucial for individuals with celiac disease to prevent further liver damage and maintain their overall health.

Abnormal high liver enzyme test result with blood sample tube


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