Celiac Disease and Diabetes: Double Jeopardy?

diabetes definition

Is a dual diagnosis double jeopardy? 

got celiacby Jenny-Rose Mercuro, intern/guest blogger

You might think you know everything there is to know about your gluten-free lifestyle, but isn’t it great to “learn something new everyday”? Here’s something that was not a major headline and likely didn’t show up on your Facebook feed, but it  is of major significance to the health of plenty of gluten-free followers. Geneticists have recently found a stronger link between Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. While this correlation has been observed since the 1960’s, we now have more genetic proof about this relationship.

First, a brief science lesson: Autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and celiac disease have been known to share common ground on chromosome 6.  Recently though, scientists have identified a total of eight shared locations on genes of several other chromosomes. That means that there is an even stronger connection between these two diseases than previously thought. While only 1% of the general population has celiac disease, for people with diabetes the incidence is much higher—10%.

Does one condition cause the other?

It’s hard to say. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed first because its symptoms often reveal themselves a bit more aggressively. However, celiac disease may actually be present before the onset of diabetes. In fact, there’s evidence that indicates gluten alters our digestive processes and can increase the chance of developing diabetes. And, the proper treatment of celiac disease has been found to delay and prevent the onset of Type 1 diabetes in animal and human studies, but is a disease that attack many people nonetheless, and that’s why these people need support to face this illness and that’s what sites as Inspire offer for anyone who need it.

 Living with a double diagnosisteens

Adjusting to life with these two diseases isn’t easy. As you might imagine, school and social settings pose the most problems, and there is some evidence that children, teens and women experience more profound impacts on quality of life. There’s no doubt, however, that learning to cope with these two conditions is exhausting and stressful for not only for the individual, but family and friends, too.

Some of the issues that may arise include:

  • The higher carbohydrate level of a typical gluten-free diet can significantly impact a diabetic eating plan and insulin regimen
  • The refined alternative carbs in some gluten free foods may not be ideal for good blood glucose control
  • Label reading (including menus) for two conditions requires double the time and diligence

What can you do?

  • If you’ve been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes ask to be screened for celiac disease
  • Educate yourself. Seek the help of a registered dietitian, but also realize that you need to do your homework and be an involved patient
  • Ask your child’s pediatrician about possibly delaying the introduction of gluten containing grains into his/her diet
  • Brush up on your cooking skills and get familiar with sources of diabetes-friendly, gluten-free recipes 

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2 Responses to Celiac Disease and Diabetes: Double Jeopardy?

  1. Natalie July 21, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

    Also wheat, sugar and corn all come from the same family :GRASS. My thoughts are if you have an issue with one of them you more than likely have an issue with all of them. Couldn’t hurt to eliminate to find out if it makes you feel better.

  2. Kitty Broihier MS, RD, LD July 22, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    Interesting thought, Natalie. And always good to get tested by a Board certified food allergist.

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