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Type 1 Diabetes

Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes

​​​​​​​What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a health problem where the body can’t digest foods with gluten. Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. It damages the intestines of people with celiac disease.

When the intestines are damaged, it causes poor digestion and prevents the body from getting all the nutrients out of food. Some people with celiac disease don’t have any symptoms. But some people have stomach pain, diarrhea, oily bowel movements, weight loss, bloating, poor appetite, and rashes. It can cause poor growth in children.

When the body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, it can lead to weak bones or anemia (low iron levels). When you’re diagnosed with celiac disease, you need to stop eating all foods that have gluten. Usually, symptoms start to get better after about 2 weeks of following a gluten-free eating plan. People without symptoms still need to stop eating gluten to make sure their bodies get all the nutrients from food.

How is celiac disease diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing celiac disease is a blood test for specific antibodies (proteins the body makes to fight viruses and bacteria). This test is done when you’re still eating gluten, because the antibodies disappear when you stop eating gluten. If you test positive for the antibodies in your blood, you may likely need a confirmation gastroscopy. A gastroscopy is a procedure where a tiny camera is guided into your intestine from your mouth and samples are taken of your intestine. You’ll need to continue eating gluten until this is done to confirm the diagnosis of celiac disease. If this test is positive for celiac disease, your healthcare provider will recommend you start a gluten-free diet.

How does celiac disease affect type 1 diabetes?

About 5 to 10% of people with type 1 diabetes will develop antibodies for celiac disease. Not eating foods with gluten can affect your blood sugar management. It’s a good idea to work with your healthcare provider to learn more about gluten-free diets, how to read food labels, and the glycemic index. Your healthcare team can help you balance your insulin to carbohydrate intake as you make changes to your diet. If you have diabetes and thyroid/celiac disease, you may be at risk for other autoimmune disorders. Talk to your healthcare provider about this.​

Current as of: February 9, 2018

Author: Primary Care and Chronic Disease Management, Alberta Health Services