Celiac disease is a serious immune disorder that can occur in children and adults. The disease causes the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine when gluten is consumed, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. Gluten is a protein found in wheat. Celiac disease may develop any time after wheat or other gluten containing foods are introduced into the diet, typically after 6-9 months of age.
New research suggests that parents of young children with type1 diabetes should be on the lookout for symptoms of celiac disease as well.
The study found these youngsters appear to face a nearly tripled risk of developing celiac disease autoantibodies, which eventually can lead to the disorder.
"Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease are closely related genetically," explained study author Dr. William Hagopian.
"People with one disease tend to get the other. People who have type 1 diabetes autoantibodies should get screened for celiac autoantibodies," Hagopian said. He directs the diabetes program at the Pacific Northwest Research Institute in Seattle.
Symptoms of celiac disease include stomach pain and bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, weight loss, fatigue and delayed growth and puberty.
Dr. James Grendell is chief of the division of gastroenterology at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. He explained why knowing ahead of time that celiac may be developing can be helpful.
"Early diagnosis of celiac disease is important to initiate treatment with a gluten-free diet to prevent complications, particularly growth retardation in children," he said.
"Other significant complications include iron-deficiency anemia, osteoporosis and a form of skin rash. Less common, but potentially lethal, complications include lymphoma and carcinoma of the small intestine," Grendell added.
Treatment for the disease is avoiding eating or drinking anything that contains gluten. Fortunately these days, there are many products that typically contain gluten but are now offered gluten-free. These products usually cost more than their gluten counterparts, but offer more of a variety in the diet.
While the study did find a link between type1 diabetes and celiac disease, that doesn’t mean that type1 diabetes necessarily causes celiac disease.
However, parents should be aware that if their child has type1 diabetes, he or she should be screened for celiac disease. Early intervention with the proper diet can increase the possibility of a good outcome as their child ages.