Celiac disease can occur with other diseases. First, it can lead to those diseases. like osteoporosis, because of the decreased absorption of calcium, or anemia, because of decreased iron absorption. Those who have other autoimmune disorders also have a greater risk of having celiac disease, which is also an autoimmune disorder. And there are other disorders where the link between the two is not well understood. Additionally, gluten sensitivity seems to be more common in a number of disorders and that is being further explored.


Consequences of Celiac Disease

  • Anemia (from poor iron absorption or from low B12 and folate because of a gluten restricted diet)
  • Osteoporosis (from poor calcium absorption and earlier menopause)
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (the rash that can be present in adults before they know they have celiac disease
  • Infertility (Approximately 3-4 percent of women who have infertility have unrecognized celiac disease and unknown percent of men with infertility also have celiac disease). Also women who have uncontrolled celiac disease can have shorter periods and earlier menopause
  • Intestinal cancers are more prominent in untreated celiac disease. On a gluten free diet that increased risk vanishes
  • Migraines (sometimes removing gluten improves migraines)
  • Depression is common in those who have untreated celiac disease. This may simply be because of not feeling well (though some will argue that the leaky gut resulting from celiac disease causes a chemical reaction). either way, a gluten free diet often helps.
  • Anxiety is not as common as depression, but it may be there for the same reasons--and it too improves on a gluten free diet 

Other Autoimmune Disorders

Type 1 Diabetes occurs in childhood and may be followed by celiac disease in 3-8 percent of these children. It may first be recognized when blood sugars are jumping up and down and harder to regulate with insulin

Thyroid disease patients, especially those with Hashimoto's thyroid inflammation, also seem to have a 3-6 percent crossover with celiac disease

Juvenile arthritis patients do have a higher risk of celiac disease, but it is not clear whether treating celiac will improve the arthritis

Sjogren's Syndrome which is a disease that affects mouth and eye secretions, though usually in adults over 40, has a higher risk of celiac disease, as well as lupus, arthritis and other autoimmune disorders.  

Liver diseases are more common in patients who have celiac disease. this includes but is not limited to autoimmune hepatitis.

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder, but for some reason, celiac disease (which can be seen in 3-8 percent of those with Down ) and other autoimmune diseases occur more frequently.

Crohn's disease is another autoimmune intestinal disorder. Celiac does not seem more prominent in this group, but when it occurs, the Crohn's problems seem harder to control even on a supposedly strict gluten free diet.


Other disorders

Turner's syndrome is a genetic disorder with as many as 8 percent of patients having celiac disease, though the reason is not clear.

Williams syndrome, another genetic disorder, also has 8-10 percent with celiac disease, perhaps because of general metabolic problems that are more common in children with genetic disease, though that is certainly not clear at this time.


Non-celiac Associations

Irritable Bowel Syndrome in adults has numerous authors who believe that a group of their patients improve on a gluten free diet even when they do not test positive for celiac disease.

Depression and anxiety as noted above may improve for patients who are removed from a gluten free diet even when they do not have celiac disease  (to establish that relationship, see our blogpost on non celiac gluten sensitivity).

Autistic Spectrum Disorder patients (including those with pervasive developmental disability (PDD) and Asperger syndrome are often placed on gluten free (and sometimes casein free) diets with parents reporting some improvement for their children. We presented our experience (at the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition in 2000) with a small number of children whose parents had eliminated both casein and gluten. Twenty-five percent (25%) of the parents indicated that they had seen an improvement in their children's intestinal and behavioral symptoms)

Hyperactivity: Dr. Peter Green thinks he has seen in increase in gluten sensitivity in children and adolescents who have problems with hyperactivity (again how to test for that association is contained in the post on non-celiac gluten sensitivity)

Bottom Line: Celiac and non-celiac sensitivity can be seen in numerous conditions. It is important to distinguish which type of gluten sensitivity exists with appropriate testing. 


Further Resource: