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Celiac Disease

Learn the warning signs and symptoms of celiac disease in adults and children, and discover how changes in your diet can lead to dramatic improvements in the quality of your life.

Celiac Disease Signs & Symptoms in Children

Celiac disease was classically described in children after presenting with diarrhea. After indicated symptom improvement following a modified diet, celiac disease became more understood. But what truly are celiac disease symptoms in children?

Celiac Disease Signs & Symptoms in Children

Celiac Disease (and Symptoms) in Children

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune system perceives gluten as a harmful and toxic substance. Following gluten intake, the body essentially attacks itself and cascades an undesirable reaction. Despite the overlapping signs and symptoms of celiac disease in children and adults, they tend to be more pronounced during childhood.

Common celiac disease symptoms in infants and children are related to the gastrointestinal tract and include chronic diarrhea, abdominal distention and pain, poor appetite, failure to thrive, muscle wasting and weight loss. More severe cases include lethargy, watery diarrhea, dehydration, hypotension, and electrolyte imbalances including hypokalemia.

Further characteristics of celiac disease involve multiple body systems including:

Dermatitis Herpetiformitis

Although mostly occurring in teenagers and adults, this blistering skin rash may also be witnessed in children. It is commonly noticed on the elbows, knees, and buttocks regions.

Delayed Puberty

If celiac disease goes untreated, children may experience short stature and impaired growth hormones. Additionally, adolescent girls have shown to have delayed menstrual cycles.

Compromised Bone Development

Children may experience a bone loss, severely affecting critical development of the skeletal system. Managing celiac disease has shown to positively impact and restore bone density.


Despite its commonly witnessed development in adulthood, a small portion of children may experience arthritic symptoms or become diagnosed with juvenile chronic arthritis.

Psychiatric Disorders

Speculations have suggested gluten contributed to a large number of behavioral problems, including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Though no sound evidence has concluded such links, celiac disease has been associated with depression and anxiety.

Reducing Gluten-Related Complications

Though celiac disease is not ideal at any age, catching it during childhood can diminish consequences that may compromise vital growth and development stages. If suspecting an adverse reaction to gluten, start to monitor and eliminate suspecting food products while paying close attention to their physical reactions. Symptoms may first show following the introduction of solid foods including gluten-containing cereals.

If a child is experiencing any of the indicated symptoms, a conformational celiac disease diagnosis can provide a peace of mind. A gluten-free diet is the only known treatment of celiac disease at this time, so eliminating gluten-containing food products is imperative. If the child tests negatively for celiac disease, he or she may be suffering from a gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy. Being diligent on a healthful diet and seeking out further healthcare can be extremely valuable to reduce unpleasant symptoms and complications.

Guandalini S. Pediatric Celiac Disease Clinical Presentation. Medscape. Available at:

Sydney Lappe's Photo
Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on August 01, 2019.


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