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Ways Your Ancestry Might Determine Your Risk for Celiac Disease

Updated on June 5, 2016

Ancestry and Risk for Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a hereditary condition, meaning one's risk increases if it is prevalent within the family tree (i.e. brother, parent, sister). For several years, it was believed that those at greatest risk for celiac disease were those of European ancestry. A recent study however has revealed that this is no longer an accurate statistic. Instead, celiac disease is most commonly found among those individuals with ancestors from India's Punjab region.

In a news release from the American Gastroenterological Association pointed out that "Celiac disease is not recognized as one of the most common hereditary disorders worldwide." Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl is an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

Women and men are equally at risk for celiac disease as studies have shown that one gender is not at greater risk for the condition over others. This is another change from previous studies that indicated that women were at greater risk for celiac disease than men.

The significance of this finding is that it will better prepare physicians in making an accurate diagnosis among their patients when confronted with symptoms and reviewing biopsies given this bit of information.

The study also revealed that this condition was less common among of North Indian, South Indian, East Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Jewish and other American ancestry.


What is Celiac Disease

By now, you probably have noticed that the grocery stores have aisles of food and/or merchandise claiming to be gluten-free, geared towards those individuals who suffer from celiac disease. However, there are a number of people who buy gluten-free products simply because they have been told "It's good for you."

What they do not understand is that gluten-free foods are intended for people who suffer from celiac disease. Celiac disease is an immune disorder that affects more than 1 million Americans. Celiac disease is a condition that damages the small intestine when gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye is consumed (source: It is important to reiterate that only certain individuals are susceptible to this condition/have a sensitivity to gluten. It is also important to note that it is difficult to diagnose the condition unless a biopsy is performed in which tissue is taken from the small intestine. Thus, indicating that it is very difficult for us to "self-diagnose" that we suffer from celiac disease.


Common Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Those who suffer from celiac disease may complain of symptoms that are common to everyday life and may occur with other health conditions and disorders including abdominal pain, diarrhea, mood irritability, weight loss, gas, fatigue, a blistering skin rash and depression. 1 in 56 people will actually complain of experiencing any symptoms.

While gluten is commonly found in foods, it can be in a variety of everyday products that we use in our lives including vitamins, lip balm or even the glue found in stamps. There are those individuals however who do not experience any symptoms at all.

Other Risks Associated with Celiac Disease

Individuals with celiac disease are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease versus those who do not have this condition (

Osteoporosis is another complication that can occur with celiac diseases --specifically untreated celiac disease. Even with treatment, some individuals may be required to make a concentrated effort to increase their vitamin D intake.

Celiac disease may also make individuals vulnerable to autoimmune conditions like thyroid disease.

Finally, there is also a link (genetic) between Type 1 Diabetes and celiac disease. Studies show that individuals with Type 1 Diabetes have an increased risk for developing celiac disease and the opposite is true for those with celiac disease; individuals with celiac disease are at an increased risk for Type 1 Diabetes. Celiac disease can disrupt blood sugar control creating unstable blood sugars in some individuals.

If you believe that you have celiac disease, you should seek treatment from your treating physician so that you can be adequately tested. In addition, a dietitian can assist you with selecting the right foods for your diet.

Source: HealthDay News, 2016


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