Celiac Disease


“Celiac” is a popular term today, often paired with “gluten free.” Celiac disease is hereditary and occurs when the lining of the small intestine gets inflamed and damaged, triggered by an immune reaction some people have when they eat gluten. Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye and barley. A damaged small intestine can’t absorb nutrients from food. Left untreated, this can lead to other serious health problems. Celiac disease can develop at any age and is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people. People with a first degree relative having celiac disease have a higher risk of also developing it. 60-70% of celiac disease occurs in women.


Symptoms of celiac disease vary, but the most common are diarrhea and weight loss, though that can be misleading. Only 1/3 of adults with celiac disease have diarrhea, and only about 1/2 lose weight. Some people have constipation or are obese. Digestive symptoms are more common in infants and children than in adults.
Celiac disease symptoms can also include:
  • Anemia
  • Bloating
  • Bone/joint pain
  • Bone loss/osteoporosis
  • Malnutrition
  • Missed menstrual periods/infertility
  • Numbness of the hands and feet
  • Seizures/migraines
Symptoms in children can include:
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Constipation
  • Delayed growth/puberty
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of muscle coordination
  • Stomach pain after eating/bloating
  • Vomiting/weight loss


To learn if you have celiac disease, you’ll first meet with your doctor for a physical exam. You’ll talk about your symptoms, and then your doctor may order tests, such as: 

  • A blood test to check for an immune reaction to gluten
  • An endoscopy to get a tissue sample (biopsy) from your small intestine
  • A capsule endoscopy to get pictures of your digestive tract 

Services & Treatment

If you have celiac disease, your Aurora care team will work with you to determine the best treatment options. Typically, this includes eliminating gluten from your diet. A dietitian can help you learn more about a healthy gluten-free diet, and your doctor may prescribe vitamins and supplements.

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