What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Symptoms of celiac disease vary based on age, and some people experience few if any symptoms. In children, celiac disease may present with symptoms that relate to digestive dysfunction. A large abdomen, abnormal stools, vomiting, trouble gaining weight, or noticeable weight loss may be signs that a child has celiac disease.

Adults who exhibit symptoms may notice mood changes, joint and bone pain, tiredness, limbs that tingle or fall asleep, weight loss, stool change, upset stomach, and sores in their mouths. Women may experience changes in their menstrual cycle and inability to conceive or carry a baby to term.

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Individuals with celiac disease who consume gluten can trigger inflammatory responses in their bodies that damage the lining of the small intestine and interfere with the digestion and absorption of the nutrients in food. This leads to numerous vitamin, minerals, and other nutrient deficiencies, as well as corresponding short-term health problems, such as depression, anemia, abdominal pain, irritability, nausea, weight loss, diarrhea, and fatigue—to name a few.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that leads to damage of the small intestine and keeps the body from fully absorbing nutrients. Signs and symptoms of malabsorption vary greatly among individuals. Since many cases of the disorder go undiagnosed, it's important to be aware of the symptoms, which include:

  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Indigestion

Some people with celiac disease have no symptoms, which makes this disease difficult to diagnose. Other symptoms are mistaken for other ailments, such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease and cystic fibrosis. Some signs to look for include excessive gas, abdominal pains, chronic diarrhea, foul-smelling bowel movements and weight loss in spite of eating a hearty diet. Some people with celiac disease also experience fatigue, joint pain, muscle cramps, depression and irritability. In addition, there is a rash associated with celiac disease. Called dermatitis herpetiformis, it causes itching and blistering on the knees, elbows and rear end.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.