By Rachel Begun, MS, RD
November is National Diabetes Month and, in honor of raising awareness, this is part 1 of a two-part blog series about the connection between celiac disease and type 1 diabetes.
People with celiac disease have an increased likelihood for other disorders, particularly autoimmune disorders. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), about 3 to 8 percent of people with type 1 diabetes will have biopsy-confirmed celiac disease. For those with celiac disease, the longer the exposure to gluten, the greater the risk of developing another autoimmune disorder, such as type 1 diabetes.
Armed with these statistics, it’s important for people with type 1 diabetes to be screened by their physicians for celiac disease. It’s important to note that:
- Type 1 diabetes is more likely to be diagnosed first since it often triggers early in life.
- Celiac symptoms in those already diagnosed with type 1 diabetes may be silent, meaning outward signs of the condition are not present.
- Celiac disease symptoms can be confused with uncontrolled diabetes, and untreated celiac disease may make it difficult to control blood glucose levels.
While physicians should be aware of the signs of celiac disease, it’s also important for patients to recognize and report any unusual symptoms they are experiencing. This is particularly true for people with type 1 diabetes, as the symptoms of the two disorders may overlap, and it is the patient who can tease out usual from unusual symptoms.
Outward presenting symptoms of celiac disease include (but are not limited to):
- Diarrhea and/or constipation
- Tingling/numbness (peripheral neuropathy)
- Joint pain
- Behavior changes/irritability
- Unexplained weight loss/gain
For those who may not experience the above symptoms, it’s important to take note of the following diagnoses as they may be indicative of celiac disease:
- Signs of malnutrition, including any nutrient deficiency, anemia or osteoporosis
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Lastly, anyone having difficulty controlling their blood glucose levels while taking every effort to do so should talk to their physician, so they can explore other complicating issues.
Now that we have shared information about how to identify and screen for celiac disease in type 1 diabetes, in my November 16th post we’ll talk about how to simultaneously manage the dietary aspects of these two conditions.
Rachel Begun, MS, RD is a food and nutrition communicator. She provides education, communications and consulting services to health organizations and the food industry. She also educates the public via speaking opportunities, online activities and writing for publications, including her own blog, The Gluten Free RD. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest via her website at www.rachelbegun.com.