Celiac Disease in Women

Celiac disease is a condition that is often associated with women. How true is this? Discover the response and characteristics of the disorder for this group.
Celiac Disease in Women

Last update: 03 July, 2021

Celiac disease is an immune system disorder that’s triggered by ingesting gluten. The condition is the focus of thousands of scientific studies year after year, as we try to increasingly understand the processes behind it. Today we explore the clinical manifestations and particularities of celiac disease in women.

Is celiac disease more common in women?

Celiac disease in women is more common
Women are more prone to some conditions. Celiac disease is one of them, although the cause of this association isn’t well defined.

Evidence indicates that celiac disease is more common in women than in men. Not only does this group account for the highest percentage of diagnoses, but it’s also characterized by developing more complications that develop faster.

It isn’t yet clear why the prevalence of this disorder in women is higher, although we suspect that women are more likely to seek medical assistance when they detect symptoms. Young men, in particular, often put off going to the doctor’s or simply learn to put up with the symptoms (especially if they’re mild).

It’s also speculated that women accumulate a greater genetic predisposition, although there are no conclusive studies regarding this.

Be that as it may, they should be more attentive to the symptoms related to the disease, especially if they’re part of the risk groups. The most relevant ones are having a family history of celiac disease and having another autoimmune disorder.

Fertility and celiac disease in women

Apart from being the group with the highest prevalence of the disease, celiac disease in women is characterized by having distinctive symptoms. Although, of course, the classic gastrointestinal signs can also develop, traditionally it has connected with fertility problems.

For example, a study published in Fertility and Sterility in 2011 found that serological markers for celiac disease are prevalent in women with poor reproductive performance. Here are some of the results:

  • Recurrent abortion: 6.70%
  • Unexplained fetal death: 5.70%.
  • Unexplained infertility: 5.65%.
  • Intrauterine growth restriction: 9.33%.

In the control group, the positive markers for the disorder were 1.30%. This means that women with celiac disease are at higher risk of developing some of the above complications. However, this isn’t the only evidence pointing to such a relationship.

Research published in Human Reproduction in 2011 suggested that women are more likely to develop endometriosis if they’re diagnosed with celiac disease. Complications are more frequent during the first year after diagnosis and gradually decrease after this (the cause is likely to be adherence to a gluten-free diet).

Other indications suggest that premature births, miscarriage, and late menarche are also related to the disease. The Celiac Disease Foundation cautions that irregular or missed menstrual periods are also frequent manifestations in women diagnosed with celiac disease.

Faced with all this evidence, we can conclude that problems related to fertility are a common development with celiac disease in women. Those with complications of this type should be examined with a serum test to diagnose this condition when no other answers have been found.

Other complications of celiac disease in women

Doctor examines bone with osteoporosis.
Bone health can be compromised in women with celiac disease.

It’s widely accepted that osteoporosis is more common in women than in men. This is due, in part, to hormonal changes that occur after menopause. Since the deterioration of the intestinal villi as a result of the disorder can prevent the absorption of calcium and other nutrients, the process can be accelerated or advanced in patients.

A study of 81 celiac women between the ages of 20 and 70 found low bone mineral density in areas such as the femoral neck and lumbar spine. If not treated in time, the symptoms of osteopenia can increase the risk of fractures when there are falls.

Fortunately, the risk disappears after a strict gluten-free diet is started. This is indicated by the evidence, which also warns of the importance of an early diagnosis to avoid other related complications.

We can’t fail to mention the relationship found between emotions and celiac disease in women. Specifically, research published in Chronic Illness suggests the development of psychiatric disorders as a consequence of the disease. The main one mentioned is depression, which can also be accompanied by eating disorders.

What to do in the face of the prevalence of symptoms?

If you experience classic gastrointestinal symptoms in the company of some of the above signs, then you should consider taking a serological test to rule out the disease. If you’ve already been diagnosed and these persist, you should consult with the specialist to locate their possible cause and find a solution.

It’s possible that the diet you’re applying isn’t 100% gluten-free, or that during the cooking or storage process the food is becoming contaminated with this protein. You may also have a rare variant called refractory celiac disease.

Be that as it may, it’s very important to keep the disorder under control, especially if you plan to have children in the future.

  • Arigo D, Anskis AM, Smyth JM. Psychiatric comorbidities in women with celiac disease. Chronic Illn. 2012 Mar;8(1):45-55.
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  • Kumar A, Meena M, Begum N, Kumar N, Gupta RK, Aggarwal S, Prasad S, Batra S. Latent celiac disease in reproductive performance of women. Fertil Steril. 2011 Mar 1;95(3):922-7.
  • Moleski SM, Lindenmeyer CC, Veloski JJ, Miller RS, Miller CL, Kastenberg D, DiMarino AJ. Increased rates of pregnancy complications in women with celiac disease. Ann Gastroenterol. 2015 Apr-Jun;28(2):236-240.
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