The causes of celiac disease are not widely understood but are said to be triggered by a combination of family history, genetics, pre-existing health conditions and lifestyle factors.

Today, 1.4% of the global population are living with celiac disease, however a large number of people living with celiac disease remain undiagnosed.

Let’s talk about some of the causes of celiac disease including risk factors and how serious celiac disease is as a condition.


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What Causes Celiac Disease?


Celiac disease has a number of causes including:

  • Family history
  • Genetics
  • Other health conditions
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress

Family history


Celiac disease may be linked to family history.

Celiac disease often runs in families. If you have a close relative who is diagnosed with celiac disease, there is a far greater chance that you will receive a celiac disease diagnosis. According to the NHS, there is a 10% chance of developing celiac disease if a close relative is living with the condition. There is a 75% chance of developing celiac disease if you have an identical twin living with the condition.


Genetics


Celiac disease may be caused by genetics.

Celiac disease is said to be partially caused by genetic mutations that affect a group of genes
called HLA-DQ genes. Mutations on the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes are often referred to as “celiac genes”.

HLA-DQ genes are heavily associated with the immune system and protecting the immune system, as mentioned celiac disease is an autoimmune condition, meaning that the immune system begins to attack itself following the consumption of gluten.


Other health conditions


Celiac disease may be caused by past and current health conditions.

There is a higher likelihood of developing celiac disease if you have experienced certain digestive system infections in the past, for instance, rotavirus infection, especially as a child.

There is also an increased chance of developing celiac disease if you are living with other autoimmune conditions such as autoimmune hepatitis, thyroid disease, diabetes or arthritis. It is also more common among those with anemia, Down syndrome, and colitis.

healthy-villi-and-damaged-villi-1


Pregnancy


Celiac disease may be linked to pregnancy according to a number of research studies, though it isn’t necessarily a concrete cause of the condition, more research is definitely required on this topic.

Pregnancy may trigger celiac disease in those who are already predisposed to the condition. An Italian study reported that women with celiac disease were twice as likely to experience pregnancy complications when compared to women without the condition.

50% of women in the study had experienced menstrual cycle disorders prior to their pregnancy, so there is a tentative link between hormone disorders and celiac disease diagnosis.

Another link has been drawn between stressful life events and celiac disease. In another Italian study, it was shown that 20% of women who were diagnosed with celiac disease had recently experienced pregnancy.

While current research points to the fact that there is a link between pregnancy and celiac disease, there needs to be more work in this area to uncover what that might mean.


Stress


Stress may be linked to celiac disease according to a number of research studies that highlight the link between emotional stress and a range of autoimmune disorders including arthritis, psoriasis and multiple sclerosis.

If you are living with an autoimmune condition, you might notice that emotional stress causes the condition to flare.

While more research is needed in this area, it has been illustrated in a study called Nutrients that stress and the onset of celiac disease may be closely linked to one another.



Is celiac disease serious?


Celiac disease is a relatively serious condition if not managed correctly.

The worrying thing about celiac disease is that while quite a small number of the global population currently live with celiac disease, there is still a large number of people who are living with the condition undiagnosed.

If left untreated, celiac disease may lead to a number of serious health complications.

The good news is, if you receive a celiac disease diagnosis, there is no need to panic, this is one of the most manageable long term conditions, and complications of celiac disease can be avoided in most cases by a change in diet. There are more and more gluten-free variations of certain foods being created on a regular basis. So, let food be thy medicine!

It is understandable that you may be worried about your diagnosis but it is important to understand that to remember that well-managed celiac disease means that you can have the same quality of life and health as someone who doesn’t have celiac disease.

Are you worried that you might have celiac disease? Take a home celiac disease test and receive your results and ongoing support from our medical team.


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Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Susan O’ Sullivan