Celiac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease | Allergy

Celiac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

by Allergy Guy

Celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are more related than you might think.  If you have IBD, you may not be aware of celiac disease, but you should be.

The basic symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease are about the same as celiac disease, so if you’ve been diagnosed with IBD, you definitely need to get tested for celiac disease, because that is what you may actually have.

Celiac Disease

Although this article refers to celiac disease quite a bit, this disease is already discussed quite a bit on this website.  I’ll cover some basics here.  For more details, see the celiac disease references at the bottom of this article.

Celiac disease is triggered by gluten in people who have the genetic makeup that predisposes them to celiac disease.  In other words, you need at least two things go get celiac disease: the genetics, and gluten in your diet.

Celiac disease can effect the whole body, but it is best known for its effect on the intestine.  It causes inflammation and damage to the intestine wall.  Symptoms include

  • Anemia
  • Malabsorption of food
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Cramps

This is not a complete list, but it does cover many of the major ‘classical’ symptoms.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is an inflammation of the intestinal wall. 

There are several types of IBD, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Symptoms of IBD include:

  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Severe urgency to have a bowel movement
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia (due to blood loss)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Celiac Disease

Notice the similarity between the symptoms of IBD and celiac disease.  They are not the same, but they are very similar.

As it turns out, a significant number of people with IBD also have celiac disease, or have been misdiagnosed, and have celiac disease instead of IBD.

This has several important outcomes.

For those with IBD and celiac disease, going on a gluten free diet will help with the IBD.  It is also important to understand that celiac disease has complications of its own, so going on a gluten free diet is essential for people with celiac disease.

A gluten free diet involves avoiding all wheat, oats, barley and rye.

For people who have been misdiagnosed, going on a gluten free diet should completely alleviate symptoms.

If you have been diagnosed with IBD, you should immediately go on a gluten free diet.  You should then get tested for celiac disease.

If you find you do not have celiac disease but find that a gluten free diet helps with your IBD, then I highly recommend that you maintain your gluten free diet.

Gluten Allergy

A gluten allergy is probably not linked to IBD.  It is worth noting that there are a significant number of people who are sensitive to gluten but who do not have celiac disease.

This means that they will come up negative when tested for celiac, yet they will do much better on a gluten free diet.

Once again, if you have IBD, definitely try a gluten free diet.  While a positive result for celiac disease means a gluten free diet will help, do not assume that a negative result means a gluten free diet will not help.  Besides, test results are sometimes wrong.

More About Celiac Disease

To find out more about celiac disease, visit these articles:

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chrystn May 13, 2011 at 23:16

Just for the record, if someone feels they need to be tested for celiac disease, it is preferred by gastroenterologists that they not begin a gluten free diet until after receiving the tests or they may receive a false negative due to healing. I speak from experience.

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2 Allergy Guy May 16, 2011 at 14:19

This is true, and the same thing happened to me. Or at least I was tested, realized that a gluten free diet would have made the test invalid, and got tested again after consuming gluten for 4 to 6 weeks. That may not have been enough time to cause damage.

I do believe the accuracy once on a gluten free diet depends on the type of test. What you say is certainly true for a biopsy. What kind of test did you have?

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