Hidden coeliac disease is common in Australian kids

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

Undiagnosed coeliac disease is extremely common in first degree relatives with the condition. The longer coeliac disease goes undiagnosed, the more harm it can cause to a person’s health. The symptoms of coeliac disease can vary widely among individuals, with some people not experiencing any digestive symptoms at all. If coeliac disease is in your family, getting yourself and your children tested may be a wise option.

Gastroenterologist Dr James Daveson, from the Wesley Research Institute in Brisbane, said findings showed a “high rate” of undiagnosed coeliac disease, with one in 10 kids missing a diagnosis. He said “The most important outcome of this study will be if it highlights the need for first-degree relatives of people with coeliac disease to be screened for coeliac disease themselves.”

Dr Daveson asked 202 first-degree relatives (children, siblings or parents) of 134 people with coeliac disease to be tested. The tests included the gene tests, serum anti-tissue transglutaminase immunoglobulin A and anti-deamidated gliadin peptide immunoglobulin G, as well as small bowel biopsy where appropriate.

They found a prevalence of 11 percent of undiagnosed coeliac disease in the first degree relatives.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the small intestine when individuals eat gluten (a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye). Coeliac disease affects at least one percent of the population.

Coeliac disease can cause the following symptoms –


This is the most typical symptom of coeliac disease, and also one of the most distressing. It’s estimated around half of adults with coeliac disease experience diarrhea. It tends to be more common in children than adults.

Abdominal bloating or cramps

Coeliac disease causes inflammation to the lining of the small intestine. Along with bloating and cramps, some people experience intestinal gas and nausea. Gut Health powder can offer symptomatic relief of digestive discomfort.

Weight loss

In people with coeliac disease, ingesting gluten damages the villi, which are hair like projections on the lining of the small intestine. Nutrients from food are absorbed by the villi. If the villi are damaged, a person can’t absorb nutrients properly and ends up malnourished, no matter how much they eat. One sign of malnutrition can be weight loss. This is more common in children than adults. It is also possible to be overweight and have coeliac disease. Certainly not everyone loses weight.


This is a major problem for the majority of coeliacs. Fatigue results from nutrient deficiencies as a result of malabsorption. Iron deficiency is incredibly common in coeliacs and is often the symptom that leads to diagnosis of the condition. Fatigue also results from the chronic inflammation, where the immune cells release a host of inflammatory chemicals every time a coeliac eats gluten. Fatigue can take a long time to resolve.

Mood problems

Most people don’t consider symptoms like anxiety or depression when they think of coeliac disease, but they are actually very common. So too are brain fog and sleeping problems. Nutrient deficiencies and inflammation adversely affect the brain and nerves, raising the risk of these problems. Magnesium is helpful for nervous tension and can improve sleep quality.

If you suspect you may have coeliac disease it’s important not to guess. Please see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Don’t remove gluten from your diet until you’ve had appropriate testing. There is a lot of helpful information about coeliac disease in our book Healing Autoimmune Disease: A plan to help your immune system and reduce inflammation.


Undiagnosed coeliac disease identified by active case finding in first degree relatives of people with coeliac disease in Australia: a prospective observational study | The Medical Journal of Australia (mja.com.au)

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