Originally published: 12.SEP.2019
Last updated: 07.SEP.2023
Bloating, gas, fatigue, and abdominal pain are all regular reactions to overdoing it on pasta night, right? Not always. If you experience one or more of these symptoms regularly after eating foods containing gluten, it might indicate celiac disease - an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, nearly 80% of people with celiac disease remain undiagnosed. This is why it’s crucial to know more about this autoimmune disease including the symptoms, the different types, and how you can check in if you are concerned.
- What is Celiac Disease?
- Four Important Facts About Celiac Disease
- What Are The Different Types of Celiac Disease?
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease (sometimes called celiac sprue) is an autoimmune disorder that occurs in genetically predisposed people. If you have celiac disease, an immune response will be triggered when you eat gluten, this response can cause damage to the lining of your small intestine which can impact its ability to absorb nutrients. Not to be confused with gluten sensitivity which refers to difficulty in digesting foods containing gluten but no damage is caused.
It’s important to know that once diagnosed, you can treat celiac disease by following a strict gluten-free diet which should help control any discomfort and symptoms.
Related article: Celiac vs. Gluten Intolerance: What’s the Difference?
What Happens When You Eat Gluten With Celiac Disease?
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley. If you are living with celiac disease, your body's immune system will reject the protein in the food you eat.
- If you have celiac disease and eat gluten, the villi (hair-like projections that line your intestines) will be damaged.
- Villi are responsible for absorbing nutrients when you consume food. When the villi get damaged, it can prevent the small intestine from absorbing some nutrients (also referred to as malabsorption).
- In children, malabsorption can affect growth and development. In adults, it can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms.
- Untreated celiac disease can cause serious long-term complications including bone weakening, infertility, and nervous system problems.
Four Important Facts About Celiac Disease
- Celiac disease is hereditary meaning that if you have a close relative who lives with celiac disease, you are at an increased risk of having it. People with a first-degree relative (a parent, sibling, or child) with celiac disease have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease according to The Celiac Disease Foundation.
- People can develop celiac disease at any age. It is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 40-60 years old. The average time it takes to be diagnosed with celiac disease is 13 years according to a NCBI study.
- Celiac disease can lead to other autoimmune diseases such as anemia, osteoporosis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash), and in some severe cases, infertility.
- Celiac disease comes in different forms. Often they are broken into three groups classical celiac disease, non-classical celiac disease, and silent celiac disease. We will speak about these different types of celiac disease later in the article.
What Are The Different Types of Celiac Disease?
There are 3 common types of celiac disease: classical, non-classical, and silent celiac disease. Each type has similar symptoms, though the symptoms can range in severity.
Classical celiac disease
In cases of classical celiac disease, early warning signs may include:
- Digestive symptoms and issues
- Unexplained weight loss
- Stunted growth in children
For those who are suffering from classical celiac disease but continue to consume gluten, there is a higher likelihood that sufferers will produce pale, smelling, and fatty stools. This condition is known as steatorrhea
Non-classical celiac disease
In cases of non-classical celiac disease, early warning signs may includE:
- Abdominal bloating and cramping
- Chronic fatigue
- Severe headaches
- Tingling in the hands or feet
- Reduced bone mass
- Dental issues
- Itchy rash on the body
Note: The difference between classical and non-classical celiac disease is that those who are living with classical celiac disease are experiencing symptoms of malabsorption whereas those who are living with non-classical celiac disease may not experience tell-tale symptoms of malabsorption.
Silent celiac disease
Silent celiac disease is often so-called because patients will not experience any symptoms associated with celiac disease. You might wonder how someone can still have celiac disease but not experience symptoms when they ingest gluten. It has been proven that those who are living with silent celiac disease will experience villous atrophy damage to their small intestine, but can live their life feeling fine.
Related article: What Causes a Change in Bowel Movements?
If you are experiencing symptoms of celiac disease such as fatigue, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, or if you have any of the common risk factors like family history, type 1 diabetes, or thyroid disorder, the most reliable way to find out if you have celiac disease is through a test. You can do this with your doctor or from home with LetsGetChecked's Celiac Test.
It's important to note that while there is no cure for celiac disease, following a strict gluten-free diet can typically be very effective in managing gastrointestinal symptoms and reducing any potential damage.
LetsGetChecked’s Celiac Test will be able to identify celiac disease antibodies. Your online results will be available within 5 days and our dedicated medical team will be on hand to answer any questions you may have. The test must be taken following six weeks of a gluten-containing diet to ensure accurate results.