You’ve noticed that you have a lot of stomach problems, like gas and diarrhea. And you feel tired, listless, and achy. And the symptoms worsen when you eat things like bread, pasta, and pastries. You’ve even lost a bit of weight and don’t know why.
A lot of things could be the reason. Celiac disease is one possibility. It’s an immune system problem. If you have it and eat a food that has gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley), your body attacks your small intestine. That causes damage and makes it hard for your body to absorb nutrients.
When you have celiac disease, your small intestine can’t properly digest nutrients from food. Over time, this can cause more health problems.
There are many different symptoms, and yours may be different from someone else’s. You may not even show signs of the disease at all.
Symptoms in Adults
In adults, common symptoms include:
- Iron deficiency
- Bone or joint pain
- Depression or anxiety
- Tingling numbness in hands and feet
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Itchy skin (called dermatitis herpetiformis)
- Mouth sores
Symptoms in Children and Teens
- Growth problems
- Weight loss
- Chronic diarrhea, which can be bloody
- Abdominal bloating and pain
- Failure to thrive
Your child may also show signs of malnourishment. His stomach may bloat, while his thighs become thin and his buttocks flat.
Teens with celiac disease may not show symptoms until they’re in a stressful time, such as when they leave home or have an injury, illness, or pregnancy. They tend to show many of the same symptoms as younger children, including diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and fatigue.
Teens can also have other symptoms, such as:
When to Call Your Doctor
See your doctor if you think you or your child could have celiac disease. For people that have it, a gluten-free diet can help prevent issues like malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility, and neurological problems.
Celiac disease tends to run in families, so if you have a close relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) who has it, you may want to get checked.