Diabetes and Coeliac Disease

Diabetes and Coeliac Disease

What is Coeliac Disease?
Symptoms of Coeliac Disease
Diabetes and Coeliac Disease
Treatment – Diets For People With Coeliac and Diabetes
The Experiences of a Family With Diabetes and Coeliac Disease
Information Sources


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Diabetes and Coeliac Disease

Both diabetes and coeliac disease are autoimmune diseases and there are increasing amounts of research to show that there is a link between the two both in adults, children and adolescents. Increasingly there are views that more attention should be given to this link and that tests for coeliac disease should be routinely carried out in both adults and children with diabetes [ref 1].

Coeliac disease maybe the cause of vague abdominal symptoms and may cause hypoglycaemia due to impaired carbohydrate absorption in the gut.

A further study carried out in Oxford [ref 1] looked at 167 children and young people with diabetes. Antibody tests for coeliac disease were carried out and eleven [6.6%] were antibody positive and of the eleven:

  • only 1 had coeliac disease symptoms
  • 4 had a history of gastro-intestinal problems but not severe enough to seek medical advice
  • 6 showed no symptoms at all.

Nine of this group of eleven agreed to a biopsy and 8 of them had typical coeliac features of the small bowel. All were treated with a gluten-free diet and monitored for up to 2 years. They were symptom free. Those showing no symptoms at all before the study reported no change in their well-being and follow up biopsies showed normal appearances of the small bowel suggesting that treatment had been effective.

The authors point out that screening for coeliac disease in these youngsters with diabetes showed a high percentage had coeliac disease but the majority of them did not show the classic symptoms. At present it is not known whether treating symptomless people will be of benefit considering the riggers of the voeliac diet and whether or not they are at greater or lesser risk of the long-term complications of coeliac disease.
Ref 1 Coeliac Disease in Children and Adolescents with IDDM. D.B.Dunger et al. Diab Med, Vol 15: 38-44