Treatment Guide

Shocking Facts About Celiac Disease

celiac awareness month

Photo credit: Celiac Disease Awareness Month

May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month, so it seems appropriate to share some medical facts about this autoimmune disease that just might shock you.

These facts come from Dr. Tom O’Bryan who is is a nationally recognized speaker and workshop leader specializing in gluten sensitivity and celiac disease.  Dr. O’Bryan’s specialty is in teaching the many manifestations of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease as they occur inside and outside of the intestines.

What follows are a few excerpts compiled by Dr. O’Bryan from some of the thousands of scientific based research papers on the subject of celiac disease:

  • Celiac disease is one of the most common lifelong disorders in both Europe and the U.S.
    NEJM 348;25 June 19,2003
  • Celiac disease is a much greater problem than has previously been appreciated.
    ARCH INTERN MED/VOL 163, FEB 10, 2003
  • In the past seven years, one in four children were diagnosed as having celiac disease as a result of case-finding of associated conditions. Pediatrics 2009;124;1572-1578
  • Celiac disease diagnosed in childhood was associated with a 40% increase in suicide risk.
    Dig Liver Dis 2011 Aug;43(8):616-22
  • Autoimmune disorders occur 10 times more commonly in the gluten sensitive enteropathy celiac disease than in the general population. CMLS, Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 62 (2005) 791-799
  • Prolonged fatigue or “tired all the time” should alert the physician to celiac disease.
    Gastroenterol Hepatol 2003; 15: 407-13
  • The prevalence of celiac disease has increased five-fold overall since 1974. This increase was not due to increased sensitivity of testing, but rather due to an increasing number of subjects that lost the immunological tolerance to gluten in their adulthood.
    Ann Med. 2010 Oct;42(7):530-8
  • Seven out of 10 tests for celiac disease can come back with ‘false negatives’  N Engl J Med Oct.23 2003,1673-4 (meaning the test says everything is ok and it’s really not)
  • The single most important risk factor for celiac disease is having a first-degree relative with already-defined celiac disease, particularly a sibling. A rate up to 20% or more has been noted. World J Gastroenterol 2010 April 21; 16(15): 1828-1831
  • The latest numbers indicate that as many as one in every five people have some form of gluten-sensitivity. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2010 Jun;14(6):567-72


Author Information: Jennifer D. Harris, Atlanta, GA
Jennifer D. Harris,
Atlanta Gluten-Free Examiner
Program Chair, Atlanta Metro CeliacsTwitter@jenniferGFinGA

[Editor’s Note: You will find over 300 signs, symptoms, associated disorders and complications and how to fix them listed in the Gluten Free Works Health Guide. The Gluten Free Works Health Guide is the most comprehensive medical reference on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity in the world and is based on Recognizing Celiac Disease, by Cleo Libonati, RN, BSN, the work that has been endorsed by physicians and faculty at prestigious medical institutions throughout the United States. ]

About Jennifer Harris

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Author Information: Jennifer D. Harris, Atlanta, GA Jennifer D. Harris, Atlanta Gluten-Free Examiner Program Chair, Atlanta Metro CeliacsTwitter@jenniferGFinGA


  1. After over 50 years of lack of and mis diagnosis in desperation I put myself on a gluten free diet 3 yrs ago. I was taken to hospital when I was 5 yrs old and the idiot doctor ran chalk down my spine and said did it hurt? Well of course it did – i was only 5! But he said I didn’t know what pain was! I suffered from stomache ulcers, asthma, migraines, constipation and severe stomache aches for 50 yrs and was unable to eat even things such as marmalade or onions (and dozens and dozens more things). The only thing that helped were stodgy foods – bread etc. ironic it was the very thing making me ill. Most things have improved considerably now I am gluten free but I do think my body has been irrepairably damaged in a lot of ways. Why don’t the medical profession realise it is not just diahhrea and stomache cramps, there are mamy many symptoms.

  2. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease about a year ago along with gastreolerisis and the gastro that found it acted as if it was not that big of deal so I’ve blew it off,today I have neuropathy in my legs, fibromyalgia all over, arthritis in my knees and chronic fatigue. The Dr didn’t tell me it was an autoimmune disorder and didn’t warn me of how this could affect my body which leads me to believe that most drs do not know the severity of this disease. My body is in a constant state of inflammation and I am suffering from it. I need more literature more understanding of how this disease affects other parts of the body and how long do you have to be gluten free before my body starts repairin itself.

    • Dear Daniel,

      I also have Celiac with peripheral neuropathy. The AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) diet will help your inflammation. A class 4 laser can help bring back feeling from neuropathy. It helped mine. Sports Medicine Chiropractors have these. Google AIP diet. There is a lot of information. I’m still dairy & nightshade free for nearly a year. A Functional Neurologist can teach you how to not make yourself worse. 1 autoimmune disease left unchecked leads to several. I also have Hashimotos & EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Deficiency). Unfortunately some endocrine as well since I must take glucobalance with meals. My Internist ran regular glucose test was normal. Functional Neurologist ran an A1C it came back prediabetic. After AIP diet & Glucobalance it is normal but I have to take Glucobalance still. Was able to go from 6 to 5 with meals. It’s a diet for life. You have to slowly reintroduce foods. Rice & Tapioca made me very sick so please be careful. I still can only have yolks & no egg whites due to the soy in chicken feed. God Speed to you Daniel!

  3. Celiac disease is definitely a more serious problem than most people give it credit for and it’s important to understand what can be done to reduce the likelihood of symptoms and the like. Great information shared!

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