Celiac disease is a condition in which the presence of gluten in the digestive tract irritates the small intestine. This irritation can lead to inflammation or even damage of the small intestine, and oftentimes is categorized by mild to moderate digestive symptoms like diarrhea, bloating and abdominal discomfort. However, celiac disease can lead to a number of additional health issues besides digestive discomfort. Below, we explain what other health issues could develop if you ignore treatment for your gluten intolerance and celiac disease.
Health Issues Linked To Untreated Celiac Disease
Don’t assume that your celiac disease will be fine if you can handle a little abdominal discomfort when consuming gluten. There are a number of other health issues that can develop as a result of untreated celiac disease. Here’s a look at five of them:
- Osteoporosis – What does a digestive condition have to do with the health of your bones? When your small intestine is damaged as a result of your untreated celiac disease, it can no longer absorb nutrients from food products like normal. The small intestine breaks down and absorbs nutrients from food sources, and if it can no longer do this effectively, your body may not get the nutrients it needs to aid in certain bodily processes. If you become calcium deficient because of small intestine malabsorption, your bone density can decrease, which will increase your risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
- Type 1 Diabetes – Research has found a genetic link between celiac disease and Type 1 diabetes, and many people diagnosed with one condition only learn about the other after a routine screening exam. Following a gluten-free diet can help to manage both celiac’s disease and components of your Type 1 diabetes.
- Infertility – The research is still pretty scant on the clear connection between untreated celiac disease and infertility. Some studies suggest that there may be a link, while others suggest that it’s not celiac disease, but rather an underlying autoimmune issue, that is driving fertility issues. However, recent research found that it may be wise to start screening women for undiagnosed celiac disease if they are experiencing fertility issues or stillbirths, as these complications tended to be more common in women with celiac’s disease.
- Cancer – It’s important to realize that developing cancer due to untreated celiac’s disease is quite rare, but there are a few types of cancers that are associated with the condition. Non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma and adenocarcinomas of the small intestine have all been linked to celiac’s disease. At a minimum, you’ll want to be mindful of the association and discuss any digestive issues you’re experiencing with your physician.
- Heart Disease – Heart disease also tends to be more common in patients with celiac’s disease. One study found that among patients with celiac’s disease, the overall rate of heart disease was 9.5% compared to 5.6% for the general population. In people under 65, those percentages were 4.5% for those with celiac’s disease and 2.4% among the general public. Caring for your diet and your celiac’s disease can help to reduce your risk of heart disease and related issues.
As you can see, it’s imperative to confront your celiac’s disease or be screened if you’re experiencing digestive issues, as untreated celiac’s disease can lead to a number of serious health issues. To talk with a GI specialist about any symptoms you’re experiencing, or to discuss a different gastrointestinal issue, reach out to Dr. Bhatti and the team at Bhatti GI Consultants today at (952) 368-3800.