There's more to celiac disease than just the inability to eat anything with gluten in it — despite its reputation as a trendy and trivial health ailment, celiac disease is actually a serious autoimmune condition, which can lead sufferers to experience side effects ranging from frequent diarrhea to osteoporosis. Researchers estimate that up to one percent of the population has celiac disease. But some studies have suggested that as many as 97 percent of people afflicted with celiac disease don't even know that they have it — because celiac's symptoms are so tricky to pin down.
Many of the most common symptoms of celiac disease — like fatigue or persistent joint pain — are also symptomatic of a whole host of health problems, so many doctors don't think to test for celiac disease as a matter of course. But living with untreated celiac can have very real consequences for your health. People with celiac disease can't process gluten, a protein which is found in wheat and other grains — eating it inflames the sufferer's small intestine, which in turn leads their bodies to develop problems absorbing vitamins from food. This can lead to unhealthy weight loss, as well as many problems with bowel movements and abdominal pain that can make daily life difficult.
Celiac disease isn't the only form of gluten intolerance out there — but it is among the most severe. So if you've noticed that your migraines seem to be tied directly to your bagel consumption lately, or that you can't stop pooping (or can't start pooping), don't let the haters who think celiac disease is just some fad diet keep you from taking care of yourself. Check out nine of the most common symptoms of celiac disease below — and if they sound familiar, make an appointment with your doctor to get a celiac disease panel blood test and a small intestine endoscopic biopsy, which are the only way to really know if you have celiac disease.
Have your trips to the bathroom turned into a time to get caught up on all of your emails from the day, read some news articles, and play a few rounds of Candy Crush? Constipation is one of the most common signs of celiac disease — more than 20 percent of sufferers experience it. So don't be afraid to tell your doctor if your ability to go seems to have, uh, gone.
Or perhaps your trips to the bathroom have recently transformed into hourly emergencies that keep you from making social plans, hanging around outdoors, or venturing any place that's located more than 30 feet from a fully-functioning toilet? Well, chronic diarrhea is also a common sign of celiac disease — the disease plays havoc with your intestines, and it can impact every sufferer in different ways. Fun! But, luckily, chronic diarrhea related to celiac disease will typically clear up within a few weeks of adopting a gluten-free diet.
3. Abdominal Pain And Bloating
Stomach pain is one of the human body's most hideous tricks — all you were trying to do was eat some delicious chili con carne, and now here you are, doubled over in a pain and sweating at 3 a.m. Well, for some celiac sufferers, every day is full of the searing gas pains most of us associate with overindulging at a chili cook-off.
Some folks with celiac experience a stabbing-like pain in their stomach when they consume gluten; others have reported feeling cramping, spasms, and targeted pains in different areas of their stomachs. If you feel any kind of stomach pain on the regular, it is worth getting it checked out — even if it is not celiac, it could be indicative of another health problem, and if nothing else, your doctor may have an idea about how to make it stop.
Since celiac disease prevents the body from properly absorbing many vitamins, including iron, some celiac sufferers can develop iron deficiency anemia. If you've been diagnosed with anemia — or even if you're just experiencing a few symptoms of anemia — it may be worth talking to your doctor about getting checked out for celiac disease, as well.
Does it feel like someone has placed a jackhammer directly into your brain on the regular? 18 percent of American women struggle with chronic migraine headaches, and recent research suggests that there may be a link between them and gluten sensitivity. A 2013 study found that people with celiac disease suffered from migraine headaches at much higher rates than the general population — 30 percent of celiac patients reported chronic headaches, too.
Feel falling-down exhausted even though all you did today was watch Adventure Time and sort your laundry? Consistent fatigue — a physical or mental exhaustion that doesn't seem connected to what you have or haven't done over the course of your day — can be tied to a number of health problems besides celiac disease, and all of them are worth consulting a doctor about.
But fatigue is a very common celiac symptom, and any relationship you notice between your gluten consumption and fatigue patterns is worth mentioning to your doctor.
7. Unexplained Weight Loss
Have you been eating the same way you normally do, but have somehow transformed into the Incredible Shrinking Woman anyway? Many women don't think to consult a doctor when they begin inexplicably dropping weight, because our society is so grossly prone to praising any and all weight loss in women (even if it comes at the cost of their health).
But sudden, unexplained weight loss, even though you have a normal appetite, can be a sign of celiac disease or another health problem — and if it is, you're losing weight because your body isn't absorbing nutrients properly. So please, talk to your doctor — don't let our society's crummy beauty standards keep you from taking care of yourself.
Are you suddenly itchy? Like, really, really itchy? Is your formerly smooth epidermis suddenly covered in blistery bumps that you want to scratch sooooooo badly? Then you may have come down with dermatitis herpetiformis, one of the many skin conditions associated with celiac disease. Not only can seeing a doctor help you figure out if this rash is linked to celiac disease — it's also very easy for doctors to treat with an antibiotic. So get thee to your GP, Itchy!
9. Joint Pain
You think of yourself as youthful, vibrant, vital — the kind of freewheeling millennial that those magazine articles are always complaining about. So why do your joints ache like you're a member of the Greatest Generation? Unexplained pain and stiffness in joints in your fingers and knees can be a sign of celiac disease — one that afflicts old and young folks alike. So if you find that you suddenly want to replace your daily jog with a nice soak in the tub with epsom salts, talk to your doctor. If your joint pain is related to celiac disease, all you'll need to do is skip those morning muffins, and you'll be back to tearing up the trail in no time.
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