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Bowel Illnesses Sometimes Coincide in Kids

Children with irritable bowel syndrome were more likely to also have celiac disease in Italian study

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Children suffering from irritable bowel syndrome are four times more likely than other kids to have a condition called celiac disease -- an allergy to gluten -- Italian researchers report.

More than 2 million people in the United States have celiac disease, or about one in every 133 people, according to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Irritable bowel syndrome, another condition, causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. Some symptoms may overlap with those of celiac disease.

"If you have a child with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, he or she has a four times higher risk of celiac disease as compared to the general population," said lead researcher Dr. Ruggiero Francavilla, with the interdisciplinary department of medicine, in the pediatric section of the Giovanni XXIII Hospital at the University of Bari.

In celiac disease, the body's immune system reacts to gluten, causing damage to the small intestine and making the body unable to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. This condition can lead to malnutrition, anemia or osteoporosis, according to the NIDDK.

Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley and grains derived from them, such as durum, semolina and spelt.

For the new study, Francavilla and colleagues looked at 782 children with stomach problems. Of these children, 270 had irritable bowel syndrome, 201 had chronic indigestion and 311 had stomach pain. All these children were tested for celiac disease.

In all, 15 children tested positive for celiac disease -- 12 with irritable bowel syndrome, two with chronic indigestion and one with stomach pain, the researchers found.

Given their findings, Francavilla thinks that only those children with irritable bowel syndrome need to be screened for celiac disease.

"Celiac screening should be addressed only in irritable bowel syndrome children rather than all the population with abdominal pain, since in those with abdominal pain not related to irritable bowel syndrome, the risk of having celiac disease is identical to the general pediatric population," he said.

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