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Celiac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can refer to multiple conditions, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and microscopic colitis. All are characterized by long-term inflammation in the digestive tract, but colitis affects the large intestine (colon), while Crohn’s disease affects the small intestine and occasionally the large intestine and upper GI tract.

What is the Connection Between Celiac Disease and IBD?

A meta-analysis from 2019 found that if you have celiac disease, you are at a greater risk of developing IBD. It also found that patients with IBD are also at a higher risk of developing celiac disease. It found no difference between those with ulcerative colitis and those with Crohn’s.

Another meta-analysis from 2019 found similar results: “an increased risk of IBD in patients with celiac disease and increased risk of celiac disease in patients with IBD.”

One study from 2009 found microscopic colitis in 4.3% of patients with celiac disease, which is higher than the risk for the general population. 

Aside from that, IBD symptoms and celiac disease symptos are similar—if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease but still experience symptoms on a strict, gluten-free diet, consider talking to your doctor about IBD.

    IBD: Crohn’s

    What is Crohn’s?

    Crohn’s disease is characterized by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract, usually the small intestine. Symptoms can vary depending on what areas of the digestive tract are affected. Common ones include:

    • Diarrhea
    • Abdominal pain and cramping
    • Fatigue
    • Blood in stool
    • Mouth sores
    • Reduced appetite
    • Fever

    Crohn’s is a chronic condition, but most patients experience illness in waves; symptoms will flare for a time, then go into remission for months or years.

    How is Crohn’s Diagnosed?

    Crohn’s is diagnosed through a combination of tests, as well as ruling out other conditions. Tests your doctor may order include blood tests, stool tests, MRI, CT, colonoscopy, capsule endoscopy, balloon-assisted enteroscopy, etc. Crohn’s disease is usually diagnosed and managed by a gastroenterologist, a type of doctor that specializes in digestive diseases.

    How is Crohn’s Treated?

    While there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, there are many medicines approved to manage symptoms and even encourage long-term remission. Treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs, Immune system suppressors, biologics, antibiotics, and more. Changes to your diet may also help; low-fiber diets are often recommended.

    A large number of patients also eventually undergo surgery to remove affected portions of the intestine.

    Where Can I Learn More?

    IBD: Ulcerative Colitis

    What is Ulcerative Colitis?

    Ulcerative colitis is characterized by chronic inflammation in the large intestine (colon) and/or rectum. The inflammation causes sores—also called ulcers—in the lining of the colon.

    Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

    • Blood or pus in bowel movements
    • Diarrhea
    • Anemia
    • Abdominal pain and cramping
    • Weight loss
    • Nausea
    • Mouth sores
    • Fever

    Cases can be mild or severe and debilitating. Patients tend to have flares followed by periods of remission, which can last for months or years. During remission, patients may experience few to no symptoms.

    How is Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosed?

    Ulcerative colitis is diagnosed through a combination of tests, which may include blood tests, stool tests, endoscopy and/or colonoscopy. Ulcerative colitis is usually diagnosed and managed by a gastroenterologist, a type of doctor that specializes in digestive diseases.

    How is Ulcerative Colitis Treated?

    While there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, there are a number of medications that can help calm inflammation. Many patients also find that small changes to their daily diet can also help.

    For particularly difficult cases, your doctor may recommend surgery.

    Where Can I Learn More?

    IBD: Microscopic Colitis

    What is Microscopic Colitis?

    Microscopic colitis is characterized by chronic inflammation in the large intestine (colon). The colon tissue may look normal at first, but under a microscope the damage is clear to see.

    Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

    • Diarrhea
    • Abdominal pain and cramping
    • Weight loss
    • Nausea
    • Fecal incontinence

    Microscopic colitis is a lifelong condition. Patients often have periods of remission, which can last for months or years. During remission, patients may experience few to no symptoms.

    How is Microscopic Colitis Diagnosed?

    Patients must undergo a colonoscopy and/or flexible sigmoidoscopy with biopsies.

    Doctors may also order blood tests or stool sample analysis to ensure nothing else is going on. Microscopic colitis is usually diagnosed and managed by a gastroenterologist, a type of doctor that specializes in digestive diseases.

    How is Microscopic Colitis Treated?

    While there is no cure for microscopic colitis, there are a number of medications that can help calm inflammation. Many patients also find that small changes to their daily diet—including reducing or eliminating gluten—can also help.

    For particularly difficult cases, your doctor may recommend surgery.

    Where Can I Learn More?

    Think you may have celiac disease?

    Symptoms Checklist
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