Early symptoms of celiac disease

Updated March 23, 2017

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the digestive system. Individuals who have coeliac disease have an immunological reaction following the consumption of the protein gluten, which is found in barley, rye and wheat. The body reacts to gluten by attacking the lining of the small intestine, eventually inhibiting the body from properly absorbing vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. This malabsorption can lead to vitamin deficiencies that cause multiple problems. Some individuals may have few or no symptoms of coeliac disease. Also, symptoms of coeliac disease may occur intermittently and often begin in early childhood, when products containing gluten are introduced into a child's diet. However, coeliac disease can develop at any time during a person's lifetime.

Periodic diarrhoea

Diarrhoea may be worse at times or completely absent at others in sufferers of coeliac disease. Young children may experience both diarrhoea and severe vomiting. Some individuals may also experience constipation.

Stomach discomfort

Many individuals have stomach pain as a result of coeliac disease. Some also may experience stomach cramping. Some individuals experience bloating on a regular basis. Children with coeliac disease may appear to have a distended belly much of the time.

Stool appearance

Individuals with coeliac disease often have grey stools. These stools usually smell especially bad. Also, the stools may have noticeable oily or fatty substances in them. Stools may also be bloody.

Weight loss

As an individual loses the ability to absorb nutrients form their food, weight loss may occur. Children may experience stunted growth. The individual may have an increased appetite and may even crave foods, but he or she may continue to lose weight despite increased food intake.

Behavioural symptoms

Individuals with coeliac disease may seem unusually irritable. According to the National Institutes of Health, irritability is a very common symptom displayed by children who have coeliac disease. Children may also have problems concentrating. Many individuals will be quite fatigued due to lack of proper nutrition. Some may also experience depression.

Other symptoms

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies may cause problems such as anaemia (or low iron in the bloodstream). Anemia is often the primary symptom experienced by adults with coeliac disease. Also, some individuals may develop bone disorders such as rickets or osteoporosis, which both result from a calcium deficiency. Women may experience amenorrhoea. In addition, some individuals may suffer from dry skin or skin rashes, joint pain, mouth sores, tooth enamel loss and easy bleeding.

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About the Author

Based in Laurel, Miss., Melody Morgan Hughes covers topics related to education, money and health. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English education from the University of Southern Mississippi, a Master of Education from William Carey University and a Master of Education from Nova Southeastern University.