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Irritable bowels–is gluten the culprit?

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People who suffer from unexplained and chronic diarrhea and constipation see that the most common diagnosis for their problems is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, you need to be careful here because some people who are told they have IBS may actually have celiac disease.

It is a common gastrointestinal problem that can affect one in 100 people. It is prevalent in different parts of the world. However, many people suffering from this do not know that they have it. They also do not know that it could be slowly damaging their intestines and stopping the body from getting important nutrients.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder. Dietary gluten triggers its symptoms. Gluten is a protein that is mostly present in different grains, including wheat, barley, rye, oats, and others. So bread, cookies, cakes, crackers, and cereals often contain gluten. It is also present in imitation bacon and seafood, processed meats, marinades, pasta, some broths, thickeners, and self-basting poultry.

What happens if you have this disease?

If you have the disease, gluten can damage the intestinal villi that work as a lining of the upper part of the small intestine. Dietary gluten may blunt or completely flatten the villi. When this happens, your small intestine cannot absorb the nutrients your body needs. Even though you'll be consuming good nutritional foods, your body may not get them through the food.


The symptoms of celiac disease are common in the general population and so sometimes they are easily dismissed or misdiagnosed. People who suffer from this problem experience a cluster of symptoms. Such symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, loose stools, and constipation. These are the classic symptoms of celiac disease.

However, not all symptoms of this disease are gastrointestinal. Some other symptoms may include joint pain, skin lesions, canker sores, loss of tooth animal, anemia, delayed puberty, arthritis, epilepsy, short stature, depression, osteoporosis, and fertility problems.

Sometimes, it is possible to suffer from this disease and experience only non-gastrointestinal symptoms. Some other people who suffer from celiac disease may have no obvious symptoms, but they may still suffer damage to the intestinal villi because of gluten consumption.

Because of the range of different symptoms, the disease is often misdiagnosed.

Risk factors

There are some personal factors that may increase the risk of coeliac disease. They include-

  • Having a first-degree relative or parent, child, or sibling with coeliac disease
  • Having been diagnosed with another autoimmune disease,
  • Being Caucasian, 
  • Being female


You need to check yourself for the initial screening part. If you have constipation or diarrhea, you need to understand the symptoms, and to do that, you can eliminate gluten from your diet for about a week. During this week, see if your symptoms improve. You can keep a diary where you can write about the symptoms and the food you eat. Some gluten-sensitive people, they may need more than a week for symptoms to subside.

If your symptoms return within a few days of eating gluten again, you need to talk to your doctor about it. The doctor may confirm celiac disease with the help of a set of blood tests done before and after eliminating gluten from your diet. There may be a need for an endoscopy or biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Even though there is no cure for celiac disease as of now, after diagnosis it can be successfully treated with a lifelong gluten-free diet. It will help your intestinal villi to recover fully.