Have you been diagnosed with Celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease but seem to have ongoing symptoms or unexplained flare-ups despite your best efforts? If so, there might be something more going on. You see, research is finding that those with a diagnosis of Celiac disease are a whopping nine times more likely to also develop inflammatory bowel disease and vice versa.
Today we’re going to dive into exactly what Celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease are, how having one may make you more susceptible to developing the other, and most importantly – what you can do to prevent flare-ups and support healing if you have been diagnosed with either of these gut-based conditions.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a condition that’s characterized by a dramatic immune response to the ingestion of gluten – a protein naturally found in certain grains like wheat, rye, and barley as well as in a variety of other products like processed foods, supplements, and lip balm just to name a few. If you have celiac disease, the introduction of gluten into your body triggers a dramatic immune response – with your immune system launching a full-blown attack in an attempt to neutralize and eliminate the gluten within your digestive tract.1
Amidst the chaos, your immune system accidentally attacks your own tissues within your intestines as it attempts to eradicate the gluten – causing significant damage to your intestinal lining and the millions of nutrient-absorbing villi that it contains. This injury to your gut tissue and subsequent impairment of your villi’s ability to properly absorb nutrients can have some serious consequences, leading to things like:2,3
- Abdominal discomfort and pain as well as gas and bloating
- Digestive upset such as diarrhea and/or constipation as well as nausea and/or vomiting
- Weight loss and malnutrition
- Skin issues – like itchy blistery skin
- Joint pain
- Nervous system disturbances – like numbness or tingling in hands and feet, impaired cognition, problems with balance
- Mouth ulcers or dry mouth
- Loss of bone density
- Impaired spleen function
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Hormonal irregularities such as missed menstrual cycles or infertility
The overzealous and aggressive immune response seen in Celiac disease can make the ingestion of gluten not only unpleasant but even downright dangerous. Now that you have an understanding of Celiac disease, let’s explore exactly what inflammatory bowel disease is.
What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
While inflammatory bowel disease or IBD sounds like a singular condition, it actually encompasses a small cluster of disorders characterized by ongoing and oftentimes significant inflammation within your digestive tract – namely two specific conditions known as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease can impact any part of your gastrointestinal system (from your mouth all the way to your anus), while ulcerative colitis’s impacts are confined to your large intestine.4
The underlying cause of IBD is complex and likely attributed to a combination of factors ranging from genetics and lifestyle to an overactivated immune system and dysbiosis (an imbalance in the microbes that inhabit your gut). Both of these subsets of IBD have similar, overlapping symptoms that tend to wax and wane – fluctuating between periods of normalcy and unpleasant flare-ups. Symptoms associated with IBD include:4
- Abdominal pain and/or discomfort often accompanied by bloating and gas
- Digestive upset such as diarrhea and/or constipation – often alternating between the two
- Bloody or mucousy bowel movements
- Bowel urgency (the urgent need to have a bowel movement)
- Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite
- Significant fatigue and feelings of lethargy
- Seemingly unrelated symptoms like joint pain, skin rashes, or vision problems
So as you can see, while Celiac disease and IBD are distinct disorders in their own right, there is a significant amount of overlap. Now let’s dive into how that overlap and the underlying imbalance seen in these two conditions can actually make you more susceptible to developing them both.
How Celiac Increases the Risk of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Vice Versa
Research has found that those who have a diagnosis of Celiac disease are nine times more likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease than those without Celiac. Likewise, those with IBD have a significantly increased likelihood of developing Celiac disease.5 You see, both Celiac and IBD can be traced back to a number of underlying factors that leave your overall gut health compromised and your immune system off-kilter – perfectly priming your gut to be more susceptible to developing both conditions.
These underlying contributing factors include:
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- Hidden infections
- Dysbiosis – a shift in the balance of microbes that reside within your gut
- Increased intestinal permeability – an increase in the “leakage” of materials through your intestinal barrier
- Immune dysfunction and overactivation
- Ongoing, elevated inflammation
Because these two disease states both impact the gut and share many similar functional pathways, it makes sense that once you’ve developed one condition, the stage is more easily set for the development of the other. So why is this correlation between the two important?
So, Why Is the Connection Between Celiac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease Important?
Understanding the connection between these two conditions and the increased likelihood of developing both conditions is critical when it comes to proper treatment. You see, failure to properly diagnose both conditions in those who have in fact developed both, could potentially leave huge gaps in treatment protocols.
If both conditions are indeed present, it’s imperative that a comprehensive treatment plan is put in place to address both Celiac disease and IBD. Otherwise, treatments may fall flat and leave patients struggling with symptoms despite their best efforts. So what exactly are the treatment options if a diagnosis of both Celiac and IBD is reached?
Celiac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treatment
The treatment for Celiac and IBD is often similar and is aimed at restoring balance to the gut while soothing inflammation. Accomplishing this requires a holistic big-picture approach that includes:
Avoiding Foods That Trigger Flare-Ups:
While gluten is the most obvious food-related culprit, it’s certainly not the only food that can trigger inflammation. Things like refined oils and sugars, processed foods, dairy, and even corn or soy can be highly irritating. It can sometimes be helpful to try an elimination diet or even have your doctor run a food sensitivity screening to figure out exactly what foods your body responds negatively to.
Restoring Beneficial Gut Flora:
Your microbiome plays a pivotal role in your gut health. So, reinoculating your gut with friendly bacteria and supporting a diverse thriving microbial ecosystem is key. Ideally, you want a variety of microbes, which you can get by combining probiotics such as those found in my Probiotic Daily Essentials with soil-based microbes, like those found in my Spore Probiotic Plus IgG.
Repairing Intestinal Barrier Function:
A compromised intestinal barrier, also known as a leaky gut, allows harmful microbes, toxins, and waste materials to “leak” through tiny gaps in your intestines – sneaking their way into your bloodstream and triggering a significant immune response that further compromises your gut’s ability to function properly. Supplements like Collagen Boost and Gut Shield can provide the building blocks your body needs to seal up the gaps and beef up this crucial barrier.
Supporting A Balanced Immune Response:
Both Celiac disease and IBD are characterized by a dysregulated immune response. Supplements like Glutathione, Vitamin C, and Gut Immune can help restore balance to your immune system by providing a concentrated dose of immune-supporting antioxidants and immunoglobulins.
Minimizing Exposure To Environmental Toxins:
Environmental toxins can damage your gut barrier, disrupt your gut microbiome, burn out your immune system, and spike inflammation – all of which spell trouble for both Celiac and IBD. Taking steps to minimize your toxic burden is a piece of the puzzle you can’t afford to ignore. Simple shifts like buying organic food, filtering your air, purifying your water, and choosing less toxic household and personal products can go a long way in minimizing your exposure to environmental toxins.
Supporting Rest, Recovery, And Healing:
Eating a healthy diet, taking inflammation-busting supplements, reducing environmental toxins, and healing your gut are all foundational pillars of treating the underlying imbalances seen in Celiac disease and IBD. But there’s another crucial pillar of healing and treatment you simply can’t afford to neglect – your mental and emotional well-being.
Chronic stress, sleep deprivation, and general feelings of negativity can put a serious damper on your body’s ability to heal. So it’s crucial to prioritize sleep, make time for relaxation and fun, and do things that fill your cup on a regular basis.
Continue Empowering Yourself With Knowledge:
The truth is, we still don’t have all of the answers when it comes to both Celiac disease and IBD. And because each and every one of us is so unique, there’s not necessarily one “cookie-cutter” treatment protocol that’s going to work for everyone. So if you’re grappling with Celiac disease or IBD, you are your own best advocate.
So empowering yourself with knowledge and tuning in to how your body responds to different treatments and lifestyle adjustments is one of the best ways you can support yourself in healing and managing either or both of these complex conditions. If you’re looking to dive deeper into Celiac disease, IBD, and ways to support a happy healthy gut, a good place to start is by browsing through some of the resources I have available on my blog and YouTube channel such as:
- Crohn’s vs. Ulcerative Colitis vs. Celiac: A Fascinating Look at Their Differences
- Celiac Disease and Your Genes: A Look at the Fascinating Link
- How Fungal Gut Dysbiosis Might Be the Underlying Culprit in Crohn’s Disease
- How Mycobacterium Might Contribute To Your Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Dr. Jill interviews Dr. Shelese Pratt on Gut Health with a Microbiome Deep Dive
- Dr Jill LIVE with Dr Kenneth Brown on Gut Health
Gut health is a big focus in my practice, so I’m regularly dropping new content and resources to keep you up to date on the latest research you need to keep your gut in tip-top shape. So be sure to sign up for my weekly email newsletter to be the first to know when I release new resources for you. All you have to do is enter your name and email address in the form at the end of this article.
Have You Been Diagnosed With Celiac Disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
If you’ve been diagnosed with Celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease but seem to still struggle with ongoing symptoms despite treatment, I strongly encourage you to seek out the guidance of an experienced Integrative and Functional Medicine Doctor. They will do a thorough evaluation to see if you perhaps have an additional underlying condition triggering your symptoms and partner with you to create a long-term plan to address the root causes.
Dealing with a chronic gut imbalance and embracing the dietary and lifestyle changes necessary to manage your symptoms and support your body and healing can be frustrating, overwhelming, and downright challenging. I know firsthand how disheartening and isolating it can feel to navigate these complex diagnoses. So if you’re in the trenches right now, searching for answers or working through the process of healing, please know you’re not alone.
If you’re seeking some practical, implementable advice as well as some inspiration and reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel, you have to check out my upcoming book Unexpected: Finding Resilience Through Functional Medicine, Science, and Faith. This book details my own personal journey with both Crohn’s disease AND celiac disease (among many other diagnoses and obstacles). My intentions in writing this book are to help empower you with knowledge, offer connection in knowing that you’re not alone in this journey, and inspire you to continue persevering and overcoming – no matter where you’re at in your journey. Click here to learn more and claim your exclusive pre-order bonuses today!
Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve felt alone or unsure where to turn for answers?
In Unexpected: Finding Resilience through Functional Medicine, Science, and Faith, Dr. Jill Carnahan shares her story of facing life-altering illness, fighting for her health, and overcoming sickness using both science and faith so that others can learn to live their own transformative stories.
Dr. Jill’s riveting and compassionate exploration of healing through functional medicine demonstrates how to replace darkness and fear with hope and find profound healing, unconditional love, and unexpected miracles in the process.
- What is Celiac Disease? | Celiac Disease Foundation
- Symptoms & Causes of Celiac Disease | NIDDK (nih.gov)
- Celiac Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Risk Factors (webmd.com)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Symptoms, Treatment & Diagnosis (clevelandclinic.org)
- Association Between Inflammatory Bowel Diseases and Celiac Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – ScienceDirect
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.