How do you know if you might have coeliac disease (or celiac disease, as our cousins across the water say)?

Symptoms vary from person to person, and some people are asymptomatic, and are diagnosed by chance, when being investigated for another problem. But there is a cluster of symptoms common enough that they could be called classic symptoms of coeliac disease:

  • In young children –
    • vomiting
    • diarrhoea
    • swollen stomach
    • wasted muscles in the arms and legs
    • failure to thrive (or grow)
  • In older children and adults –
    • exhaustion
    • anaemia
    • depression
    • weight loss
    • mouth ulcers
    • an intensely itchy rash on elbows and knees (dermatitis herpetiformis)
    • constipation or diarrhoea
  • Other symptoms can occur because of the general malnourishment of a coeliac eating gluten –
    • calcium deficiency – which can result in osteoporosis
    • miscarriage or infertility
    • lack of vitamin E, which can be related to nerve damage. Some celiacs report pins and needles
    • lack of vitamin K, which is needed to help blood clotting – lack of this can lead to nose bleeds and easy bruising
    • poor tooth enamel, because it doesn’t form properly, resulting in tooth decay
    • weight loss or weight gain – either because of the diarrhoea, or because the body is craving nutrients and so results in over-eating
    • ‘brain fog’ – inability to concentrate, feeling divorced from reality.

It’s important to note that you don’t need to have all of these symptoms! You might not have any …

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, and think you might have coeliac disease, please go and see your doctor. It is important not to rely on self-diagnosis because you might have something else wrong with you that you haven’t thought of.

I know it is counter-intuitive, but please don’t stop eating gluten until you have a diagnosis, as removing gluten from your diet will start to repair the damage done – if you are a coeliac – and you won’t get a clear diagnosis.