Celiac Symptoms

(Note that symptoms in each patient differ, some may experience all the symptoms described below and others have no obvious symptoms.)


• Weight loss

• Gas and bloating

• Diarrhoea

• Abdominal pain

• Nutritional deficiencies

• Anaemia

• Edema

• Grey or tan, fatty, greasy, foul-smelling stools that float

• Skin conditions such as Dermatitis herpetiformis

• Weakness

• Lack of appetite

• Nausea/vomiting

• Feeling full after eating a small amount of food

• Depression

• Fatigue

• Irritability

• Muscle cramps and wasting

• Joint and or bone pain

• Slow growth in children

• Children can have behavioural changes

• Late onset of periods in adolescent girls

• Mouth ulcers


Lactose intolerance may occur in Celiac disease due to the fact that damaged intestinal cells temporarily lose their lactase enzyme activity, making it impossible to digest the lactose in the dairy products.


Unfortunately there is no cure for Celiac Disease, the only treatment is complete avoidance of all foods containing gluten. This will allow the small intestine to heal, and the absorption of nutrients to resume. It is essential that treatment of symptoms and medical advice be sought as this condition can be extremely serious and, if untreated, may be associated with certain cancers of the small bowel.


 This article has been co-written with Paediatrician and Allergy Specialist, Dr Claudia Gray (MBChB (UCT), MRCPCH (London), MScClin Pharm(Surrey), DipPaedNutrition (UK), PostgradDipAllergy (Southampton), Certified Paediatric Allergologist (SA))

Dr Gray works at the allergy clinic at the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town, and has a private practice at Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town, contact 021 531 8013.