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Overweight and gluten

Posted on February 25th, 2008 by Alison Read 7 Comments - Add Your Own »

bigshadow.jpgWhen my father, a retired pediatrician, was in medical school, he was taught that celiac disease was a childhood disease with 3 symptoms: failure to thrive (being underweight), a distended belly and diarrhea. Fortunately awareness is growing that celiac disease or gluten intolerance can become active at any age, can present with a multitude of symptoms, and that a person does not have to be severely underweight to qualify for testing. Still, if an overweight adult walked into the doctor’s office, it is doubtful that celiac testing would be most doctors’ first (or any) thought.

In a 2006 study done in the U.K., it was concluded that 39% of celiac patients at the time of diagnosis were overweight (some obese) and only 5% were underweight. Dr. Peter Green says, in his book Celiac Disease, A Hidden Epidemic, that celiac disease needs to be considered by doctors regardless of a person’s weight.

I have seen a “puffiness” in some people that get diagnosed with celiac disease or discover that they have a gluten intolerance. It is a bloating that can occur all over the body, or sometimes around the face or middle. And I have seen people lose that puffiness on a gluten-free diet. I believe that anyone who is feeling unwell but can’t explain why should be tested for celiac disease.

For more about celiac and being overweight, read this article called Celiac and Obesity — There is a Connection from

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  1. I have recently (3 months ago) been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I would have never guessed because clinically, having a malabsorption disease is associated with being underweight, or a great weight loss. I was gaining. The more carbs I ate, the puffier I became. Being a runner and cyclist, my calorie need is high, but I kept gaining weight. Since going GF I have lost ten pounds and feel great. I completely agree that this edema or ‘puffiness’ can occur and can sway individuals from thinking they have a malabsorption disease.

  2. Help! I have an eight year old daughter that seems to have had health issues for way too many years! From the time solids were introduced to her diet she developed severe constipation which was not completely rectified for almost two years and then at about 5 was consistently and severely coming down with tonsillitis, was overweight, suffering with Candida and gas and at one point her doctor thought she had auto immune syndrome. We took her off wheat and sugars thinking we were addressing the candida and she underwent a huge change losing 3kg in first month and health improving out of sight. A friend of the family with Coeliac suggested maybe this was the root of her problems and the candida a by issue so we put her on a gluten free diet for six months during which time she did not get sick once! Unknown for this child! At the end of this time we took her to a specialist to get tested – he did a blood test which came back negative and looking at my daughter obviously thought there was no chance as she was still overweight and said just reintroduce the gluten. I was later told it would have shown negative even if she did have a gluten issue as she had been off it for six months at the time of the test.
    It is now around 3 years down the track and we are pretty much back where we started – tonsillitis, uti’s, recurrent candida and general ill health plus weight which just won’t shift!! She loves sport and is a very active child doing 7.5 hours of gymnastics training a week but still has a “gut” that we cannot get rid of. Does anyone think it is worth looking further into the gluten possibility? We definitely notice her digestion suffers when she has had anything with white flour which causes terribly gas in her. I really am at my wits end – I feel for the poor kid and my instinct tells me that there is SOMETHING going on I just don’t know what. Would love to hear from Lori who wrote the above as she is obviously an athlete who was experiencing weight issues too.

  3. Your daughter could have a gluten sensitivity. My son is 11. He is overweight. He seems to have bloated up quickly and he has gas issues. I did the stool and DNA test at Envirolab. It came back that he had a gluten sensitivity gene and a celiac sprue gene. You can have a negative blood test and this test could test positive. The lab is run by Dr. Fine in Dallas, TX. They send you a kit and you get the results in 3 weeks. We are just starting a gluten free diet. Also, my son is very active in sports, yet still gains weight.

  4. I think the lab name is Enterolab, not Envirolab.

  5. Please take your child off gluten and wheat!!! I had tonsilitis as a child, and strep throat constantly, and have hypothryroidism now and finally realized I need to be off wheat/gluten. My tests came back negative too, seven years ago, but I recently attended a support meeting and learned that the tests are OFTEN wrong. Tonsilitis came up at the meeting. My doctors told me that the tingling and numbness in my hands and feet were due to a sodium deficiency and I should “eat some potato chips” (I guess they didn’t suspect malabsorption)… I had low blood pressure, lactose intolerance, extra heart beat, fainting and now realize these are classic signs but no doctor (at least 10) could ever figure it out. My numbness has subsided and I’m hoping to heal my thryroid but now I’m over 40 so I don’t know what the chances are. I’ve had panic attacks and slight social anxiety and low-grade long term depression which makes a person very stressed, very hard on the body. I’m surprised I didn’t develop anything more serious than I have. I’m now looking forward to an improved QUALITY of life, I’m not so concerned about the length. I will be dedicating much of my time to helping others prevent the needless suffering. The doctors just don’t understand this disease yet, in part because the “CURE” is not a pill … just AVOIDANCE … so who is going to pay for the research??? Please LISTEN to your/your child’s body by observing reactions and heeding the warnings. It CANNOT HURT to be off of the gluten but it CAN HURT TREMENDOUSLY to be on it. Why take a chance if you suspect that there could be a problem? It’s just for a few years and then your child can make their own decision/s. You are their steward and they put their trust in you to provide the best, most consientious care. Also, this needs to be researched because it is in some odd things like Play dough, soy sauce, and envelopes. Also, pineapple and distilled vinegar bother some folks with gluten intolerance. Many restaurants offer gluten free menus and there are many more foods available than just a few years ago so this is much easier to do now. Kudos to you for looking into this, trusting your gut and not letting it slip even though you are likely tired and overworked like much of the rest of the world.

  6. Thank you so much for your posts! I have a 5 year old son, who has had a distended belly since he was introduced to sold foods, along with massive constipation! Nothing was ever said by his pediatricians about this but to give him more veggies and prune juice…give me a break! He is now in Kindergarten, and going trough a bunch of tests. I heard that DAN! Doctors are like going to an alternative doctor, and that they are very thorough, so that’s the route we have taken for now. He has had some blood tests that have shown he is LOADED with Candida Albicans, he has a major sensitivity to egg and milk, and he has been on some natural antifungals for the candida, and vitamins for his malabsorption from food (he is underweight). We are now 2 motnhs into his diet. He’s had some side affects from yeast (candida) die off, but just rashes…not fun, but a good sign things are working. It’s SO important to know what exactly you are dealing with, and our pediatricians did not notice something’s not right, with his percentiles declining. I took this on myself, and I am SO happy I followed my intuition. Go with you gut feeling (no pun intended), and get your daughter checked out by a DAN! Doctor (this is a doctor that deals primarily with Autistic children, however, they are the most thorough doctors I have come across… my son is not autistic, but I believe his health problems were affecting his social interactions, and wanted to believe he was in the best hands,thus the reason I seeked out a DAN! Dr.) or a doctor that deals in alternative medicine. You will have to pay out of pocket, most likely, but the money is SO WORTH your childs health. Best of luck to you, and I hope your daughter feels better again soon!

  7. i am myself confused with several symptoms showing corelation to glutten sensitivit or celiac disease.

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