Could Celiac Disease Cause Eating Disorders?

Celiac disease (CD) is a chronic autoimmune digestive disease in which the consumption of gluten leads to severe damage to the small intestine, interfering with the proper absorption of nutrients. This causes individuals  with the disease to suffer from a myriad of adverse health effects including bloating, weight-loss, malnutrition, pernicious anemia, unbearable abdominal pain, and even depression. Currently there is no way to treat CD other than following an incredibly strict gluten-free diet.  If a person with CD is not diagnosed and goes untreated or refuses to obey the scrupulous dietary laws, that person is at risk for developing serious conditions including lymphoma, osteoporosis, and life-altering neurological and psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia.


But now there may be another medical condition caused by CD that does not only drastically decrease a person’s quality of life, but also kills 20% of its innocent victims. This condition is something that I am positive you guys all are very familiar with – it’s eating disorders.

Now I think you all know I have anorexia nervosa. That’s pretty obvious if you scan through some of my posts. But I don’t know if everyone who reads this blog is aware I was diagnosed with CD just months before I was finally clinically diagnosed with an eating disorder. Because I have both CD and an eating disorder, when I saw an article on a connection between the two  I was incredibly intrigued.  I mean for goodness sake, I may have just found the answer as to why irrational thoughts about food have been plaguing my mind since I was just  8 or 9 years of age!

So folks, I bet you are wondering what the evidence is that supports the claim that CD and eating disorders are connected. Well, in  two cities in Italy 100 untreated celiacs and 100 healthy controls between the ages of 18 to 60 participated in a study. In the study,  each participant were subjected a rigorous psychological assessment, seven comprehensive questionnaires designed to assess eating behaviors, and also had their BMI measured.  The results were absolutely astounding. The women in the study who suffered from celiac disease had significantly scores on their Eating Attitudes Test (16% were high enough to be considered pathological) as well as a higher drive for thinness.  There was also a marked difference in women of the celiac group’s level of social insecurity, perfectionism, and feelings of inadequacy. All of these concerning but intriguing findings point towards the potential for body image issues and problems with food intake.  What makes this study even more fascinating is the fact that the findings listed up above were only found in the women belonging to the celiac group. The men in the celiac group only had a difference in their interoceptive awareness.

So of course we still don’t have enough evidence to say that individuals with celiac, especially women, are at an increased risk for developing eating disorder. More reputable studies need to be carried out in order to confirm the link.  But you must admit that the results from the Italian study are beyond extraordinary.


Learn More About the Celiac & Eating Disorder Link!


One thought on “Could Celiac Disease Cause Eating Disorders?

  1. This is such an interesting (and well written post). I think the idea behind it could be interesting too. I remember before I was diagnosed, I would claim that I didn’t like to eat (but of course I still would) because it made me feel sick and that worried some of my friends. And, then for those of us who are diagnosed, it’s interesting because we have to be on a “diet.” Not a slimming one of course, but being GF forces one to think about what they are eating and forces us to think about food all the time (which would not be helpful to someone struggling with an eating disorder). I think you did such a great job addressing this issue, and I look forward to seeing where future research leads!

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