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Signs & Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Celiac disease can cause a large amount of problems and issues throughout someone’s life if not properly diagnosed ahead of time and in the correct fashion. By knowing the symptoms that may be associated with this disease, we can better prepare ourselves and others to be aware of the signs for someone who might have this disease and may not be knowledgeable. Celiac disease is a very extremely serious condition and the better educated our population is, the sooner people could be tested for this disease.

Digestive symptoms could include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating and gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation

Symptoms not related to digestive system:

  • Anemia, usually from iron deficiency due to decreased iron absorption
  • Loss of bone density, called osteoporosis, or softening of bones, called osteomalacia
  • Itchy, blistery skin rash, called dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Nervous system injury, including numbness and tingling in the feet and hands, possible problems with balance, and cognitive impairment
  • Joint pain
  • Reduced functioning of the spleen, known as hyposplenism
  • Elevated liver enzymes

Symptoms in children:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Swollen belly
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Pale, foul-smelling stools


Many people may not even be remotely aware of the consequences that may result from being untreated or undiagnosed. Nutrients are essential to our body and provide energy while contributing to body structure and regulate chemical processes in the body. Celiac disease can cause long-lasting digestive issues and constrict the body from absorbing all of the nutrients needed. Without these nutrients our basic functions will become limited and affect everyday actions and movements. For many children with Celiac disease, the inability to absorb nutrients could result in the following 1) weight loss, 2) short stature, 3) delayed puberty, and 4) neurological symptoms. This is why it is extremely important to keep a watchful eye for possible symptoms of Celiac disease to help better protect the community.

The Effect of Celiac Disease On Real Life

Today, an interview was conducted with a Longwood University Student who suffers from Celiac Disease herself. Throughout the process of answering these questions, the student elaborates on many topics that need to be further discussed in the college setting.

Interview questions asked to student:

  1. How does this disease affect your everyday life now?
  2. Do you remember what the transition was like when you were first diagnosed? If so, what accommodations did you make?
  3. How does your disease affect you when being with friends?
  4. Are there any limitations that have stood out to you when living with this disease?
  5. What has it been like in college with this disease?
  6. Any recommendations you wish were there for you with your disease during college?

The student had expressed a variety of concerns throughout answering these questions. She had expressed that she could not eat the majority of foods in farmville and had to buy and prepare food from home to ensure there is no cross contamination. This challenge has created a challenge in her life because she is unsure on what foods have gluten and if there are possible hidden ingredients. When first diagnosed at 7 years old, she stated that she remembers many times even at birthday celebrations or regular outings that she could not eat the food there but in the end would because of the social pressures. This led to her not feeling really good after the party and being affected by the lack of accommodation. 

Now being almost 15 years gluten free, she still faces many challenges as a college student and regular adult in everyday life. For example even just this past weekend, she attended a wedding and could not eat anything at the wedding because of there not being that wide of a variety of options that she could eat. Even as a college student, there are restaurants and places friends may want to go to but she cannot because of the unknown ingredients in the food. When living on campus as well it was very difficult for her because she was forced to have a meal plan even after being denied when she appealed her case and was forced to eat at d-hall. Even though d-hall was the one option on campus that she could eat, there were not a wide variety of options even though they had stated there was.

Just from this one interview alone, we can see why it is extremely important to be able to actually have gluten free options on campus and ensure that people understand what this disease is as well as the effect of even the smallest piece of gluten which can be deadly to some.

What Actually Has Gluten In It?

Like many other types of allergies and diseases, the majority of people with these conditions have to be extremely careful and aware of what they are wearing and the products they are using. When researching this topic I was quite surprised by the amount of foods and things that I would have never had thought had gluten in it originally before researching this topic. When celiac disease is left untreated, it can lead to additional serious health problems. The best treatment for this condition would be a gluten-free diet, which heals damage in the small intestine and prevents more damage and many people will report feeling better within days to weeks of starting the diet.

Although when attempting to go on the gluten-free diet it takes a lot more than just saying you are going to stop. When thinking of gluten the first thing that we associate gluten with include bread and pasta, but there are a lot more products that contain it and need to be made aware to others. Items or foods that could have gluten include soups, sauces, salad dressings, beer, toothpaste and mouthwash, medications, vitamins, cosmetics, lipstick, lip gloss, lip balm, skin and hair products, communion wafers, and playdough. 

It is essential that people are made aware of these barriers that may be created that in the end affect the quality of life of many. The main issue with gluten-free diets is that they aren’t always healthy. Gluten-free products often contain a lot of sugar to make them tastier, which can make you gain weight. Not only that, but many gluten free foods lack important vitamins and minerals, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies, including anemia and some gluten-free products lack fiber which can contribute to constipation. Also, if you cook food that has gluten, it can linger on your utensils or appliances, which can cross-contaminate your gluten-free dishes. So if your thinking about having a friend over who has celiac disease be aware and competent of their disease!

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