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Can Celiac Disease Increase Risk For Anorexia Nervosa In Females?

Celiac Disease is quite a rare disorder of the digestive system in which the affected individual is intolerant of any food substance that contains gluten in it. On the other hand, anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which the affected individual stops eating any type of food for fear of gaining weight which ultimately results in significant weight loss and at times malnutrition. Both conditions have symptoms that are quite similar to each other. Another similarity between these two conditions is that they both are found mostly in youngsters and adolescents.[2]

Recent research suggests that there is a common link between Anorexia Nervosa and Celiac Disease and this is more pronounced in females. This increases the risk of an individual having the other condition after being diagnosed with the first one. This means that an individual diagnosed with celiac disease will have an increased risk of being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and vice versa. A study revealed that females who were diagnosed with celiac disease before they reached age 20 were at an increased risk for being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.[1]

This risk was stated to be at around 4.5 times. This data was revealed after considering various factors like health status, economic background, and education of the participants of the study. Females above the age of 20 were believed to be two times the risk of being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa after being initially diagnosed with celiac disease. The study highlighted the fact that the commonality between these two conditions were such that it frequently led to misdiagnosis causing a delay in the start of treatment.[1]

This happened especially in cases of adolescents being diagnosed with celiac disease. Both these conditions cause pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, gas or bloating, and growth retardation. The study estimated that among the 3 million odd people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease in the United States have still not been diagnosed with anorexia since celiac disease remains asymptomatic until the immune system triggers a response to gluten. The prevalence of this condition has been increasing with known risk factors for these disease conditions and it especially peaks for people with autoimmune conditions.[1]

Timely diagnosis of a condition like celiac disease still is something that researchers are working on due to the asymptomatic nature of it. This is precisely the reason why people with celiac disease tend to have an extremely poor quality of life and increased mortality rare due to complications of this disorder. This article details how the risk of anorexia increases with a diagnosis of celiac disease in females.[1]

Can Celiac Disease Increase Risk For Anorexia Nervosa In Females?

Can Celiac Disease Increase Risk For Anorexia Nervosa In Females?

Studies suggest that approximately 20 million people in the United States have various forms of eating disorder, including anorexia nervosa. This is especially seen in females. A female with anorexia nervosa often sees herself as being overweight even though their weight may be within the normal range. At times, males may also suffer from anorexia nervosa but the ratio between males and females of getting this condition is about 1:2.5. This means that 1 male is affected in every 2.5 females with anorexia nervosa.[2]

Studies have also confirmed a link between celiac disease and anorexia nervosa. It is also confirmed that both these conditions are prevalent particularly in adolescents and young adults. The study analyzed data from 18,000 females who had a known diagnosis of celiac disease from the time period between 1970 and 2008. The average age of the participants during the diagnosis of celiac disease was around 28 years. Among all the participants, 250 females had a confirmed diagnosis of anorexia nervosa by the time they were 18 years old. Thus a clear association between these two conditions was established.[2]

The researchers found out that adult females with a prior diagnosis of celiac disease were twice likely to develop anorexia nervosa later on in the years to come than normal population. The mechanism behind this association has still not been completely understood. This is in part because all the study that was conducted was observational. Some researchers however believe that in many cases people who actually had celiac disease were misdiagnosed as anorexia nervosa due to the similarity in the symptoms and vice versa.[2]

Some researchers opine that the focus on the diet for people with celiac disease is so much that they often end up with anorexia. This is also stated to be a possible explanation as to the causation. The researchers admitted that more attention has to be paid to the clinical assessment of both the conditions, especially in patients who find the standard mode of therapy for these two conditions ineffective.[2]


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 15, 2022

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