The Connection Between Celiac Disease and Down Syndrome Exposed

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Recent studies have shown that people diagnosed with Down syndrome are more likely to be diagnosed with celiac disease. People with Down syndrome, in general, are more likely to develop autoimmune disorders. If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, you should also encourage them to get checked for celiac disease. Many people live with celiac disease without knowing it. They may be adults by the time they ever consider that their digestion issues may have a root cause.

Celiac disease can result in many different health issues, both physical and mental. People sometimes brush off these symptoms, thinking they’re normal or related to something else. Getting tested will help them understand whether or not they need to make lifestyle changes. If someone is diagnosed with Down syndrome and is experiencing any symptoms related to celiac disease, it is in their best interest to get tested. Whereas less than 1% of the general population is diagnosed with celiac disease, approximately 16% of people with Down syndrome are.

The significant increase of likelihood in a celiac disease diagnosis is reason enough to get tested. People with Down syndrome are not the only ones to have an increased chance of a celiac disease diagnosis. Those with type 1 diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed as well. If you’re diagnosed with either of these things, it’s worth looking into getting tested.

Down Syndrome Overview

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder in which an extra chromosome 21 is created at conception. This disorder causes delayed physical development as well as learning and speech disabilities. People diagnosed with Down syndrome are typically shorter in stature and are more likely to be obese. There are many physical and cognitive characteristics common in people with Down syndrome, but signs, symptoms, and severity vary from person to person.

Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition in the US. Approximately 1 in 700 babies are born with Down syndrome in this country.

Autoimmune disorders are common in people with Down syndrome. The most commonly diagnosed of these disorders include hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, and celiac disease. People with Down syndrome are more susceptible to these disorders because of their impaired immune response and abnormalities in the immune system.

Celiac Disease Overview

Celiac disease is a gastrointestinal condition that causes a negative reaction to gluten. The severity of the reaction varies from person to person. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, it damages the villi in the small intestine, which in turn makes it difficult for the body to absorb vitamins and nutrients from other food. Continued consumption of foods containing gluten could result in permanent damage to the intestines and small bowel. It could also result in infertility and ulcerative colitis.

People diagnosed with celiac disease are encouraged to follow a gluten-free diet. This diet cuts out the main ingredients that contain gluten protein, including flour, barley, malt, and many other items. Even food that is prepared in the same location as gluten-containing food can be dangerous.

Celiac Disease Signs and Symptoms

Education around celiac disease is becoming more common and more people are being diagnosed as children. However, many adults currently live with celiac disease without knowing it. Because signs and symptoms vary for everyone, it can be difficult to tell if you have celiac disease. Continually eating foods that contain gluten if you have celiac disease can cause significant and permanent damage. That’s why it is important to identify the disease early and make lifestyle changes immediately.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of celiac disease:


Diarrhea is one of the most common symptoms of celiac disease. Because gluten negatively affects the digestive system, food is not processed normally and can result in loose stool or in stool difficult to pass. Diarrhea and constipation are less typical after treatment begins and a gluten-free diet is followed.

Weight Loss and Anemia

As the villi in the small intestine become damaged, nutrients are not absorbed from food. Someone with celiac disease could be eating a balanced diet and still lose weight because their body is not able to process the food properly. After diagnosis, people with celiac usually experience some weight gain, as a gluten-free diet will allow the body to absorb nutrients from other foods more easily.


Bloating is another very common symptom. This bloating is a result of inflammation in the small intestine due to gluten intolerance. Many people who don’t have celiac disease notice bloating after eating gluten, but those with the disease will notice more severe and frequent bloating.

Decreased Tooth Enamel

Celiac disease can have indirect effects on the health of other areas of your body, including your teeth and gums. Teeth will look off-color, may have increased sensitivity, are more likely to develop cavities, and will have pits, grooves, and ridges in extreme cases.

These changes in appearance are usually a result of malnutrition.

Decrease Appetite

People with celiac disease may have a decreased appetite because food can become associated with stomach pain, headaches, or depression. A decreased appetite will only exacerbate weight loss and other signs of malnutrition.


Approximately 40% of people diagnosed with celiac disease have reported feeling depressed. After beginning treatment and making lifestyle changes, many feel depressed less often.


Now that you know that celiac disease is more common in people with Down syndrome, you can be watchful for symptoms of celiac disease and get tested as soon as symptoms appear. While people with celiac disease benefit from a gluten-free diet, it’s important to get tested for celiac disease before making dietary changes. Many gluten-containing foods can benefit your body, so cutting them out unnecessarily will make your life harder for no real reason.

Do you think you have celiac disease? Check out our celiac disease screening test that can be taken in the comfort of your home.

Updated on
April 15, 2021
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