Symptoms of Celiac Disease in Women
Autoimmune diseases typically affect women more often than men. Celiac disease, an autoimmune process by which the body attacks its own tissues in response to gluten intake, is no exception. In fact, women are between two and three times more likely to develop the condition than men are. Many times, celiac disease in women is diagnosed around the age of 45. This later diagnosis can increase the chance of female specific complications. This is why it is incredibly important that signs and symptoms are not ignored and that medical advice and care are sought at the onset of recurring symptoms. While some signs of the condition are universal and not gender dependent, there are some symptoms of celiac disease in women specifically that are not found in men suffering from the condition.
The most common symptoms of the disease however are related to gastrointestinal ails and this is found in both men and women. The signs of chronic indigestion are the most common complaint. Stomach bloating and gas are among the most frequent of these, and pain associated with both gas and bloating is quite prevalent. Celiac disease bloating however may be exacerbated in women who can also encounter bloating periodically due to menses and other factors. Frequent constipation or diarrhea or both alternating are also signs of celiac disease. The problem with these types of symptoms is that they are often dismissed as acute or chronic indigestion, and therefore sufferers are not always able to establish a gluten intolerance related link to them. Additional symptoms are often required for sufferers to determine that another non-indigestion related process is taking place, and specifically the symptoms of celiac disease in women can help make this important connection.
One of the most frequently overlooked signs of celiac disease in women is unexplained infertility. Up to 8% of women who have encountered infertility may be suffering from the autoimmune condition. It may seem unusual to associate a reproductive process with a dietary based disease, however not only has this relationship been established, many women once diagnosed who switched to a gluten free diet found not only a reduction in gluten sensitivity symptoms, but also were able to conceive as soon as one year after making the dietetic change. But, infertility and conception issues are not the only reproductive system related symptoms of celiac disease in women. Early menopause has also been considered a sign as well as irregularities to the menstrual cycle. Abnormal cycles or an entire absence of menstruation has been associated with celiac disease.
Women may also be more susceptible to the mental signs of celiac disease. Chronic fatigue is one of the most common, with some women feeling particularly worn down and run down more regularly or consistently. This may occur after meals or be present all throughout the day. Depression, irritability and anxiety are also symptoms of celiac disease in women, and while they can also occur in men, their prevalence is more abundant in women suffering from the autoimmune condition.
Complications from undiagnosed or untreated celiac disease can also be different in women, who may be more prone to a cesarean delivery, for instance, as a result of the condition. Anemia may also present and breastfeeding difficulties may also be a factor. Long term effects of untreated or undiagnosed celiac disease include an increased risk of osteoporosis, osteopenia, miscarriages and stillbirths. Increased risk of certain types of cancer has also been associated with the long terms effects of untreated celiac disease. The different symptoms of celiac disease in women may make it easier to identify that the gluten related autoimmune process is present, so that medical care can be sought out and a treatment plan begun.
The only way to treat celiac disease is with a gluten free diet in which all gluten is eliminated from the daily nutritional intake. Not only will this quickly alleviate symptoms such as stomach bloating and fatigue, it will also help to reduce the risk of longer term complications of the condition. However, it is very important that if celiac disease is suspected, that a gluten free diet not be started until a consultation with a health care provider has occurred. This is because laboratory testing is needed to confirm the diagnosis of the disease, and gluten must still be in the diet in order for the test to be accurate. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment is easy and can lead to a long term restoration of health and a reduction of the symptoms of celiac disease in women.