Celiac Disease rears its ugly head in the form of many symptoms – some digestive, others nervous system issues, as well as other classic signs of chronic illness and inflammation. In fact, experts say there are approximately 300 known Celiac Disease symptoms! If you experience one or more of these symptoms, consider getting yourself tested for Celiac Disease. 1 in 133 people have Celiac, but many don’t know they have it and remain undiagnosed. In fact, experts call Celiac a “hidden disease” because it can manifest itself in many forms and can take years for someone to figure out what is wrong with them. With education and understanding, more people will get the diagnosis they need to start healing their gut and nourishing themselves back to health.
Here are just a few of the telltale signs that may signal you might have Celiac Disease. Please consult with your doctor. This information is not for the purpose of diagnosing or treating any of these conditions; rather it’s a way for you to become informed so you can intelligently discuss what ails you (and how it might be related to Celiac) with your doctor. Remember, you are your #1 health advocate!
Digestive Issues: Classic Celiac Disease symptoms typically manifest themselves in the digestive system and gut. Diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas… you name it, most Celiacs have suffered silently from these symptoms for years. For me, I thought bloating was normal, but soon after discussing it with my doctor, I learned that it is not normal at all!My bloating was a constant in my life. I would actually wake up feeling great, but by the end of the day, my belly would bloat out like a balloon. The fact that I felt great after 10 hours of NOT eating (while I was sleeping) was a sign that food was causing the painful bloating, and it built up throughout the day. If your bloating is constant and/or painful, you likely suffer from either Celiac disease or other digestive disorders and should consult your doctor immediately.
Malnourishment: Celiacs are almost always deficient in essential vitamins like iron, Vitamin B and Vitamin D. This is because the lining of the small intestine’s villi (the villi’s purpose is to absorb nutrients from the food we consume) is severely damaged in Celiacs. For children, this can lead to smaller statures and failure to thrive. Getting a proper diagnosis early can ensure a child reaches his or her full potential.
Chronic Fatigue: When your body isn’t absorbing nutrients like it should, as in the case of Celiacs, chronic fatigue can set in. Prior to diagnosis, Celiacs says they often feel sluggish and tired – including me. I’ve always had low energy levels – it was worse before my diagnosis but it’s still something I fight each and every day.
Bone and Joint Pain: Luckily I have never suffered from bone and joint pain, but it is definitely a Celiac Disease symptom. Your body is basically telling you something isn’t right. Your body is inflamed and such inflammation often manifests itself in your bones and joints. My grandmother suffered from severe and disfiguring arthritis – I can’t help but wonder if she had Celiac.
Nervous System Damage: If you suffer from depression, panic attacks, anxiety or migraines, it might be another symptom of Celiac Disease. The gut is often called our “second brain” because 90% of our nervous system is controlled in our gut! If your gut is out of sorts, your brain might feel that way too. Jennifer Esposito bravely talks about her chronic anxiety as one of the many damaging effects Celiac Disease had on her body. This is also why other diseases, such as ADHD, dementia and Alzheimer’s can be tied to diet and often relieved when someone gets off gluten. The only symptom on this list I’ve suffered from is migraines – but they weren’t frequent enough for me to realize the root cause was undiagnosed Celiac Disease.
Canker Sores in Mouth: Canker sores (unrelated to herpes) can often occur in Celiac Disease sufferers. The reason for this is unknown. If you do suffer from canker sores, and you have any other Celiac symptom listed here, consult your doctor about getting tested. I want to add that I have had canker sores from time to time… but one mouth issue I did get all the time was called “geographic tongue.” My doctor and dentist could not explain this phenomenon, but given that canker sores are linked to Celiac, I have a sneaky suspicion that geographic tongue is linked to Celiac too. My geographic tongue symptoms have greatly lessened after going on a strict gluten free diet.
Skin Rashes: Rashes on your skin, called dermatitis herpetiformis, are often linked to Celiac Disease too. I remember when I was diagnosed with Celiac I asked my friend, who is a dermatologist, about the link between Celiac and skin issues. He told me he was very aware of Celiac Disease and the impact it has on one’s skin. It is said that about 25% of people with Celiac Disease also have dermatitis herpetiformis. I do not have chronic skin issues, but I am very sensitive to prolonged sun and humidity exposure. My skin will be so itchy and red and there will be little white and red bumps all over. I can’t help but wonder if this is yet another way my body was telling me I had Celiac.
Infertility and Miscarriages: Research suggests that infertility and miscarriages can be linked to untreated Celiac Disease, including menstrual disorders, unexplained infertility, failure for baby to come to term, low birth weight babies, etc. In fact, research suggests that women with unexplained infertility have a higher rate of Celiac Disease too. Furthermore, men with Celiac Disease suffer from reproductive challenges too. One study of men with Celiac Disease found that almost half of them had hypogonadism, sexual dysfunction, or poor semen quality, all which can result in increased infertility.
There are many other symptoms of Celiac Disease – about 300 of them – too many for me to list here. The Celiac Disease Foundation has a checklist you can refer to on its website to help you assess whether you should talk to your doctor about Celiac Disease. As prior mentioned, it is very important that you talk with your doctor about any of these symptoms you’re having. Ask to be tested for Celiac Disease. You are your #1 health advocate so start advocating and healing yourself from within.