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Can I have celiac disease if my main symptom is constipation?

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Updated February 19, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Can you have celiac disease if you have constipation, not diarrhea?

Getty Images/Peter Dazeley

Question: Can I have celiac disease if my main symptom is constipation?

Answer:

Absolutely -- if you have chronic constipation along with other celiac disease symptoms, you should be tested for the condition.

Physicians used to think that celiac disease only occurred in children -- specifically, only in children who appeared malnourished and who had frequent watery diarrhea. But further research has shown that many celiacs, both children and adults, suffer from constipation or from alternating constipation and diarrhea.

In fact, you don't even need to have gastrointestinal symptoms to have celiac disease. A study conducted in Ireland found that only 76% of patients had such symptoms at diagnosis, including 56% with diarrhea and about 15% with constipation. One-third of the total group had abdominal pain. Another study found constipation in about 10% of children ultimately diagnosed with celiac disease.

Just as it's possible to be overweight and have celiac disease, it's possible to have constipation and have celiac disease. Don't be dissuaded from getting tested just because you don't have "classic celiac diarrhea" as one of your symptoms.

Sources:

B. Egan-Mitchell et al. Constipation in Childhood Celiac Disease. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 1972 April; 47(252): 238–240.

N.G. McElvaney et al. Coeliac disease: clinical presentations, correlations of dietary compliance, symptomatic response and repeat biopsy findings. The Ulster Medical Journal. 1992 Oct;61(2):134-8.

 

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