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Celiac Awareness: Increased Prevalence of Celiac Disease in Children with IBS

Appropriate news from GFP during May, Celiac Awareness Month!

A new study by Italian scientists reveals that children with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are four times more likely to have celiac disease than other children.

IBS causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation.  Many symptoms also seen in celiac disease.  In celiac disease, the body’s immune system sees gluten as an enemy.  The collateral damage in trying to fight this enemy leads to damage in the small intestine that inhibits the body’s ability to absorb  vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  This can lead to malnutrition, failure to thrive, anemia and osteoporosis.

Celiac disease, however, doesn’t occur any more often in children with general abdominal pain than it does in the overall population, said Dr. Ruggiero Francavilla of University of Bari, lead author of the study.

Because of that, Francavilla suggests limiting celiac testing to children who have been diagnosed specifically with IBS. Children often complain of stomach and abdominal pain, accounting for more than half the visits to pediatric gastroenterologists and 2-4 percent of all general pediatric office visits. Restricting testing would reduce the cost of health care and prevent unnecessary testing on the very young, he said.

Researchers tested 992 children in total. Of the 270 children who were classified with IBS, 12 also had celiac disease, more than 4 percent. Meanwhile, just 1 percent of children with functional dyspepsia tested positive and .3 percent of those with abdominal pain had celiac disease.

Both IBS and celiac disease are prevalent conditions that often share a common set of symptoms. Studies in adults with IBS have shown an increased prevalence of celiac disease, but until now it wasn't known if this was also the case in children. 

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Source:, JAMA Pediatrics 2014
Pamela Hasterok