You may not think you have Celiac Disease because your symptoms just don't fit the pop culture definition of the poor, stick-thin, gut-ravaged patient dashing to the toilet twenty times a day. You may think gluten ain't my problem. Think again. The truth is: over half of diagnosed celiacs didn't have the bathroom-dash disease you picture when you think GLUTEN-FREE NEEDS. More than half had 1 or all of these 5 under-acknowledged symptoms of the autoimmune disease -- and yes, it likely made diagnosis ten times harder.
One symptom of untreated celiac disease is a dermatological disorder called DH. It shows up as an unendurably itchy rash, often on the back of the legs or buttocs, elbows, or over the gut area (although it can appear anywhere on the body), and forms small pustules which pop when scratched. It is routinely misdiagnosed and treated with steroids -- but a simple skin biopsy can un-earth the celiac antibiodies embedded in the rash, reactions to gluten as violent as those found in other individuals' guts.
The tricky aspect of DH is that many if not most of those with the skin disease do not have the same reaction in their small intestine. But if your skin looks like THIS...
...you may have celiac. Ask your doc. And get a few opinions.
ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR DISORDER SPECTRUM
A recent study showed that celiacs are 4x more likely than the general population to suffer from any of the above mental health concerns. If a doctor tells you, it's all in your head, take a step back, and kick him in the shins. No, wait...
But in perfect seriousness: Neither celiac disease nor mental illness, connected or otherwise, are all in your head. Mental illness is physiological, caused and related to biological facts, genetics, and environmental triggers, and your brain is part of your biology. Mental illness is a physical imbalance, and should be treated as such. It is also an unacknowledged symptom of celiac disease, treated and untreated.
No, not all celiacs waste away. In fact, an inability to lose weight while still exhibiting signs of exhaustion or malnutrition is a symptom of celiac disease which many, many doctors still don't peg onto their check-list. A dear friend of mine struggled with weight her whole life, and infertility -- and was not tested for celiac until she was nearly 40.
Don't think because your body isn't shedding muscle and pounds like it's going out of fashion that you're not possibly celiac. You're just as likely to have celiac disease as the scrawny kid, the gaunt young woman, the gangly bloke in the cafe with ribs like a Halloween scarecrow.
THYROID DISEASE AND DIABETES
Both can be autoimmune diseases, but even non-autoimmune thyroid disease can be a symptom of celiac disease. Since celiac throws your body's nutritional balance off, and leaves it in a state of adrenal-draining inflammation, it affects the delicate balance of hormones needed to keep the thyroid functioning properly. Hyper-and-hypo can both signal the presence of celiac.
Likewise, diabetes often goes hand-in-glove with celiac, and of individuals diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, more than 10% (of those screened) also had celiac. There is not currently a uniform protocol for screening diabetics for celiac, and this makes the dual-diagnosis difficult to come by -- and certainly rarely acknowledged or known.
A friend and fellow blogger, Brianna from A Different Survival Guide, is a great resource for diabetic-celiacs and those seeking diagnosis.
HAIR LOSS, TRACE MINERAL DEFICIENCY
Hair loss. It was the first shocking symptom I experienced. I had discounted gut pain, had ignored growing fatigue, had chalked weight loss and muscle-loss and brain fog to "normal" stress... But the hair. When my hair began thinning, I panicked. It took two years still to diagnose celiac, but that hair loss was a radical symptom of the autoimmune war going on inside my gut, and the growing nutritional deficit my body was experiencing.
Hair loss, and certain mineral deficiencies, are extremely common, under-acknowledged symptoms of this autoimmune disease -- and often point to the adrenal and hormonal drain caused by consistent immune reactions triggered by gluten, and malnutrition.
Got any of them? Got others? Comment at Tumbling Gluten Free to join the conversation, and up awareness.