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Celiac Disease and Its Connection to Iron Deficiency Anemia

Celiac Disease and its connection to iron deficiency anemia

Commonly known as gluten intolerance, celiac disease affects about one in 133 healthy people in the United States. However, it’s been estimated that 83 percent of Americans who actually have the disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions.

Gluten is a type of protein mostly found in barley and wheat, and when ingested, some people’s bodies trigger an immune response that attacks the small intestines. As if the symptoms of celiac disease weren’t serious enough, the condition can also cause nutrient deficiencies that exacerbate the problem. In a recent study published in Nutrients, it was discovered that approximately 46 percent of people have decreased bodily iron storage and 32 percent have an iron deficiency.

Below is more information about the connection between celiac disease and iron deficiency anemia and potential treatments for patients with both conditions.

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Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Over 200 symptoms are associated with celiac disease, which makes proper diagnosis and treatment very difficult. Children are most likely to exhibit digestive symptoms, such as constipation, bloating, vomiting, and chronic diarrhea. Although adults are less likely to have these symptoms, they are more likely to develop unexplained iron deficiency anemia, fatigue, joint pain, arthritis, and depression.

Anyone who has an undiagnosed condition that lasts for several months is advised to be screened for celiac disease. It is a hereditary condition, which means that first-degree relatives have a much higher risk of developing the condition than the general public.

How Celiac Disease is Treated

The only effective treatment that has been established for people with celiac disease is adherence to a strictly gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all foods that contain wheat, barley, and rye even in trace amounts.

Celiac Disease and Iron Deficiency Anemia

People with celiac disease commonly have multiple nutritional deficiencies due to different degrees of malabsorption in the body. These deficiencies include calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, copper, magnesium, zinc, folate, and iron.

Iron deficiency anemia occurs as a symptom of celiac disease because the part of the intestines that is damaged when gluten is consumed is the same part where iron is absorbed. Iron is absorbed in the upper parts of the intestines, which is where the most damage occurs in the early stage of the disease. A physician can determine if a celiac disease patient has iron deficiency anemia if the patient is consistently not responsive to iron therapy.

Treating Both Conditions

Fortunately, symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can greatly improve for celiac disease sufferers with a gluten-free diet. However, if iron levels continue to remain low, supplementation may be necessary. The iron in Fergon is in the form of ferrous gluconate and is highly soluble. This means it is easily digested and causes fewer side effects such as the upset stomach, bloating, or constipation that can often accompany iron supplements.

It is also recommended for celiac disease patients with low iron levels to eat foods high in iron, such as liver, lean meats, seafood, legumes, poultry, and dark green leafy vegetables. Since heme iron that is found in animal sources is absorbed better in the body than non-heme iron found in plant-based foods, meats are the best sources of iron for people with this condition.

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