Healthy Living

Complications of Celiac Disease

Complications of Celiac Disease

Key Takeaways

  • In the early stages of celiac disease, it causes damage to the upper part of the intestines where vitamin B12, iron and folate get absorbed. Therefore, patients lack in these nutrients and may become anemic.
  • Due to the damage that celiac has on the intestines, people can become lactose intolerant.
  • Since celiac disease affects the amount of nutrients absorbed, women can have difficulties during pregnancy and men can experience low sperm count.

Some people can live most of their lives without knowing they have celiac disease. If you notice a pattern of experiencing chronic hives, exhaustion and bloating, consider it may be due to your diet. If you have a disease like celiac, you will experience these painful and uncomfortable symptoms after you eat gluten. It is very important for you to get tested, because complications of celiac disease can be dangerous.

Dental defects

The state of your teeth reveals a lot about your current health status. Celiac disease causes dental abnormalities such as enamel damage. The disease can cause grooves to deepen, pits, and bands to appear in your teeth. Discoloring of the teeth with yellow or brown spots may also occur. Other than that, in severe cases, the teeth may become deformed. Most of the autoimmune diseases that exist lead to oral health problems, for example canker sores appearing inside the mouth.

Migraine

Can celiac disease be the cause of your migraine? According to research conducted by Maurizio Gabrielli, MD, and colleagues, they compared 90 migraine patients with 236 healthy blood donors. In their research findings, people with migraines were 10 times more likely to have the celiac condition than the healthy blood donors. Out of the 90 people, four had an undiagnosed celiac condition. After their diagnoses, they went on gluten-free diets and were cured of their migraines. If a person with undiagnosed celiac consumes food rich in gluten, they have a higher risk of migraine crisis.

Depression

The impact of life changes may bring along stressful moments. Depression can set in while you are trying to manage and adjust to your new gluten-free diet. An inability of the small intestines to absorb nutrients properly can pose a challenge when more substances sneak through the gut and find their way into the blood stream. These stray substances have a negative impact on the brain.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose is a natural sugar occurring in milk and dairy products like yogurt. Because the small intestines are damaged due to the intake of gluten, they cannot generate the enzyme lactase to digest and break down lactose as well as healthy people can. Unfortunately, the undigested lactose moves down to the larger intestines where it interacts with the bacteria causing gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and gas. Although, many celiac patients have differing degrees of lactose intolerance, they must be treated in order to restore the lactase levels in the small intestines. The simple truth is that the gut is able to heal because the lactose intolerance is only a temporary condition. Discuss other sources of calcium with your nutritionist and health provider if you are lactose intolerant.

Bone loss

A bulk of mineral and vitamin absorption occurs in your small intestines. Due to damage inflicted by the disease, a lack of absorption of nutrients like calcium and magnesium results in significant health problems. Calcium builds and maintains healthy bones. Low bone density is common in people suffering from celiac disease, and if untreated you develop osteoporosis. Once you start treatment and adopt a gluten-free diet, it may take up to 2 years to gain your bone health.

Malnutrition

You may start to worry that your body fails to absorb necessary nutrients because of celiac disease even with a healthy balanced diet. The hair-like tentacles found in your small intestines called Intestinal Villi are directly responsible for absorbing nutrients from the food you eat. If they are flattened because of untreated celiac disease they are unable to do their job. You will be at risk for anemia and weight loss. Once you start a gluten-free diet, your deficiencies will return to normal within a year. Don’t throw caution to the wind when taking supplements in a bid to correct your malnutrition. Consult a nutritionist and your doctor. Supplements may have a potential of making your situation worse. Why? You might be taking too much of certain nutrients and ignoring others.

Celiac and reproductive health

There is a wide range of health problems stemming from celiac disease that impacts negatively on reproductive health, and these problems affect both male and female patients. Women might suffer a stillbirth, recurrent miscarriages, hormonal imbalance, early menopause and poor egg health if they live with untreated celiac. Women with unexplained infertility should go for celiac disease testing. Men, on the other hand, may experience low sperm count, and in other instances atrophy of the reproductive health.

Delayed growth in children

One of the unique complications of celiac disease in children includes stunted growth and delayed puberty. When you introduce babies to a gluten diet, they may start developing celiac disease. Children respond within minutes or even hours after consumption of gluten products. Children respond well to gluten-free diet treatment. Adolescents may experience frequent mood disorders. Irritability is a problem in many kids with celiac disease. Children with severe celiac disease may have chronic fatigue, excess water in the stool and other symptoms.

Intestinal lymphomas and other GI cancers

If you go on for a long time without a celiac diagnosis or treatment, you risk developing lymphoma. Also, in older patients at the time of their diagnosis, the risk of getting GI cancers is greater.

Gall bladder malfunction

Any damage inflicted on the small intestines causes miscommunication with the gall bladder. Admittedly, the gall bladder secretes digestive enzymes which have a ripple effect in the digestive system. So, a malfunction leads to an array of problems ranging from abdominal pain to heartburn to indigestion. If you have a gall bladder disease, it is advisable to get tested for celiac disease.

Neurological manifestations

According to Dr. Norman Latov, M.D. Ph.D., who is a professor of neurology and neuroscience believes that many celiac patients and physicians alike lack a general awareness of celiac neuropathy manifestations among patients. Chronic inflammation caused by celiac disease may ignite problems with the nerves, usually peripheral nerves. Since neuropathy manifestations cannot be treated, the underlying source can be targeted. With the absence of gastrointestinal symptoms and instead feeling numbness, tingling of arms and legs or face and torso in patients, doctors may need to perform celiac tests in patients. In many occasions, such symptoms are misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia.

Anemia

In the early stages of celiac disease, it causes damage to the upper part of the intestines where vitamin B12, iron, and folate get absorbed. In undiagnosed adults with celiac disease, for example, unresponsiveness to iron therapy can happen. As soon as you begin treatment, the small intestines heal and the absorption of nutrients resume and iron levels improves.

William syndrome

William syndrome is an uncommon congenital disorder causing distinctive facial characteristics and learning problems. According to some studies, people with William syndrome have a higher prevalence of celiac disease.

Closing thoughts

Focus on restoring your health by transitioning to a gluten-free diet to reclaim your life. It is a journey, not a walk in the park. Some of the Celiac disease complications would simply go away if you implement your diet faithfully and in a timely manner. Remember: "a stitch in time saves nine". It is important to know that the symptoms and complications vary from person to person. There is a lot to learn about a gluten-free diet. In the mix of all these, don’t forget to involve your family, nutritionist, doctor and pharmacist.