Gluten-free diets have become a growing trend for a variety of reasons, but for people with Celiac disease avoiding gluten is a necessity. There is also a correlation between Celiac disease and type 1 diabetes.
We will explain both conditions and discuss how the two diseases are related to each other. Furthermore, we have included lots of facts and research-backed data to help give you a better understanding of these conditions.
If you or a loved one was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease or type 1 diabetes, do not be alarmed. Although these disorders can both have potentially harmful effects if they go untreated, you can still live a long and healthy life if you follow the instructions of your doctor, take proper medication, and watch what you eat.
First Off, What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease affects about 3 million Americans, according to the University of Chicago Medicine Celiac Disease Center. It is an autoimmune disorder causing damage to the small intestine due to improper indigestion of gluten.
Celiac disease is a hereditary condition. In fact, people who have first-degree relatives such as a parent or sibling with Celiac disease have a 1 in 22 chance of getting diagnosed, according to the Celiac Disease Center. It extends to second-degree relatives as well, such as aunts, uncles, and cousins. You have a 1 in 39 chance of getting Celiac disease if a second-degree relative has it.
If Celiac disease goes untreated, it can lead to several long-term health complications such as lactose intolerance, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, central and peripheral nervous system disorders, gall bladder malfunction, early onset osteoporosis or osteopenia, infertility, miscarriages, intestinal cancers, iron deficiencies, and multiple sclerosis.
Gluten and Celiac Disease
According to Healthline, a gluten intolerance or sensitivity is not the same thing is Celiac disease. People can have trouble digesting gluten and suffer from mild and moderate symptoms and not have Celiac disease. The difference with Celiac disease is gluten triggers their autoimmune disorder, which damages the small intestine.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. Gluten provides a glue-like texture helping to hold certain foods together. Common foods containing gluten include bread, pasta, cereal, beer, and soup. Avoid these products or look for gluten-free alternatives to consume instead.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with all products which may contain gluten. Thoroughly read the label on everything in at the store before you purchase it to ensure it does not have any gluten.
Whenever you go out to eat at a restaurant, let your server know about your gluten intolerance. It’s also becoming popular for restaurants to label items on their menu as “gluten-free” since so many people need to know for personal health reasons. That being said, you should always ask just to be on the safe side.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is rare; it effects only about 5% of people with diabetes. Typically, type 1 diabetes gets diagnosed in people under the age of 20, but it can happen to anyone regardless of their age.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system terminates beta cells in your pancreas. These cells produce insulin, which is a hormone which moves glucose through your bloodstream to create energy for your body.
Once the beta cells get damaged, the glucose cannot move into your bloodstream because there is no insulin. When this happens, the glucose builds up in your blood, and the cells starve, which causes high blood sugar levels.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Mild and moderate symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:
- Extreme thirst
- Increased appetite after eating
- Stomach pain
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Heavy breathing
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss
In extreme cases, these symptoms can cause:
- Rapid breathing
- Severe stomach pain
- A fruity smelling breath
- Potential loss of consciousness
If you have similar symptoms, see a doctor for a consultation. Your doctor will administer blood tests and take a urine sample to check your blood sugar levels to determine if you have type 1 diabetes. Currently, there is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes from developing in your body.
Treatment for Type 1 Diabetes
Once your doctor diagnoses you with type 1 diabetes, you will begin treatment almost immediately. The key to treating this condition is by monitoring and regulating your blood sugar levels within an appropriate range.
Low blood glucose level is called hypoglycemia. If your blood sugar levels get too high or too low, you put yourself at risk for serious side effects, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases.
Hypoglycemia causes sweat, headaches, blurred vision, confusion, dizziness, fatigue, coordination problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, and irregular heartbeat. To minimize the effects of hypoglycemia, it’s imperative you check your blood glucose frequently.
Your doctor will give you instructions on how to treat yourself with insulin injections to keep your blood sugar levels at a normal and healthy level, which will reduce the risk of hypoglycemia. There are three stages to insulin after an injection:
- Onset – The amount of time it takes for insulin to reach your bloodstream and lower start managing your blood sugar.
- Peak Time – The time your insulin works the hardest.
- Duration – How long the insulin works after onset.
The type of insulin and frequency of injections varies from patient to patient based on their health condition and specific case.
What is the Correlation Between Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes?
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, about 8-10% of the Celiac disease population also have type 1 diabetes. Furthermore, roughly 3-8% of people with type 1 diabetes have Celiac disease. Both of these conditions affect the body’s immune system.
It’s recommended anyone diagnosed with either disease gets screening for the other.
If these conditions go undiagnosed, then they can lead to more serious health concerns. If Celiac disease goes untreated, it can potentially contribute to abnormal blood sugar levels, which is a problem associated with type 1 diabetes as well.
Both diabetes and Celiac disease share similar symptoms such as extreme hunger, weight loss, fatigue, frequent urination, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and malabsorption, according to the Beyond Celiac Organization.
Age of Diagnosis Matters
According to a study in the US National Library of Medicine database, people diagnosed with Celiac disease at an older age have a greater chance of developing another autoimmune condition. Type 1 diabetes is on this list, along with anemia, thyroid disease, liver disease, lymphocytic colitis, peripheral neuropathy, and dermatitis herpetiformis.
The study found children ages 2-4 diagnosed with Celiac disease have a 10.5% chance of developing one of these conditions. Children aged 4-12 have a 16.7% chance of getting another autoimmune disease and people aged 12-20 have a 27% chance.
People who get diagnosed with Celiac disease over the age of 20 have a 34% chance of another autoimmune disease.
Living with Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes
If you have type 1 diabetes only, then you do not need to follow a strict gluten-free diet. However, if you have celiac disease and diabetes, then you need to avoid gluten consumption and monitor your blood glucose levels so you can inject yourself with insulin doses accordingly.
Although these conditions may seem like an inconvenience, you can still continue living a normal and healthy life. It’s important to always consult with your doctor if your symptoms change or worsen even after insulin treatments and removing gluten from your diet.