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There are many misconceptions around the symptoms of coeliac disease. And while common gut problems like vomiting, bloating and diarrhoea can be signs of this autoimmune condition, there are lots of lesser-known symptoms too.

Did you know there are thought to be around 200 symptoms of coeliac disease that we know about?

From headaches and nerve problems to anaemia and depression, there are so many differing symptoms. It’s no wonder only 36% of people in the UK are diagnosed.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks the lining of the small intestine (villi) when you eat gluten.

There is currently no cure and the only treatment is a life-long gluten free diet.

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Despite increased awareness over the years, the condition is still largely undiagnosed. In fact, the average UK diagnosis time is a whopping 13 years!

Coeliac UK estimates that some 500,000 people are suffering symptoms of coeliac disease without a diagnosis. This needs to change.

Common symptoms of coeliac disease

When coeliac disease is discussed in the media there is definitely a tendency to refer to the most ‘expected’ symptoms of the condition.

I think because it is a condition revolving around food, people refer mostly to the gut-related symptoms of the disease. And yes, these are common.

The most common symptoms of coeliac disease that are talked about tend to be gut related:
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Persistent bloating and/or wind
  • Stomach aches
  • Constipation
  • Unexplained weight loss

Yes, these are all common symptoms of coeliac disease and anyone experiencing these should speak to their GP about being tested for coeliac disease.

But what are some of the lesser-known symptoms? Things you might not instantly think to relate to coeliac disease and asking for a test?

Lesser known symptoms of coeliac disease

Aside from the ‘classic’ symptoms, here are some of the issues which could be an indication of coeliac disease.

If you think you have any of these, it is worth speaking to your GP and suggesting they test for coeliac. This can be done initially via a simple blood test.

You can also take Coeliac UK’s online Self Assessment and take the results to your GP.

This can help you to help fight your case if you’re struggling to push for a test.

Mouth ulcers

Did you know that recurrent mouth ulcers can indicate that you may have coeliac disease and it’s worth being tested.


If your iron levels are low or you have a deficiency in iron, B12 or folic acid, this is a common symptoms of coeliac and should be tested.

Tooth enamel problems

Did you know untreated coeliac disease can damage your tooth enamel? Many cases of coeliac have actually been picked up after a visit to the dentist. If your dentist does mention you have issues with your tooth enamel it could be worth getting checked out.

Recurrent miscarriages

If you’ve had trouble conceiving or repeated miscarriages, speak to your doctor about the possibility of coeliac disease. This is one symptom that up until a year-or-two ago was not talked about a lot but it affects a lot of people and is worth investigating.

Depression or anxiety

A lot of coeliac sufferers find they have had problems with their mental health. Low mood and anxiety can be a symptom of coeliac disease and it can be worth asking for a test from your GP to rule this out if you’re struggling with your mental health.

Numb hands and feet

Neurological problems such as numb or tingly hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy) can be a symptom of coeliac disease. It’s not one you’d instantly think is related to a food your eating so definitely worth mentioning to your GP if you have this.

Skin rash

Dermatitis Herpetiformis is the manifestation of coeliac disease as a rash on the skin and is thought to affect 1 in 3,300 people with coeliac. Usually the rash forms of small blisters on the scalp, shoulders, buttocks, elbows, and knees.

Stunted growth

I was diagnosed with coeliac disease as a child and one of my symptoms was that I wasn’t growing and developing at the same rate as everyone else. This can be a common sign of coeliac disease in children.

coeliac disease diagnosis sarah howells gluten free blogger 7
As a child I was very short and skinny and that formed part of my coeliac diagnosis.

Migraines and headaches

People who get recurring migraines could have coeliac disease and it’s certainly worth getting a test done if you cannot find a root cause for migraines and headaches.

Poor balance

If you have poor balance or coordination (known as ataxia) this can actually be a sign of coeliac disease. It’s another neurological symptom which doesn’t always have an instant association with eating gluten.

Other autoimmune conditions

Unfortunately autoimmune conditions tend to be like buses and once you have one, you seem to be more likely to have others. If you are experiencing symptoms and have another condition already such as autoimmune thyroid or type 1 diabetes, it’s worth a test.


There has been a growing awareness lately that children with ADHD and other learning disabilities could have coeliac disease. It’s certainly worth discussing with your child’s GP if you think this is something that needs to be tested.

Joint pain

This can be a symptom of coeliac disease and if you have been visiting the GP about this without getting answers, it might be worth asking for a test to be done.


Did you know untreated coeliac disease can cause your bones to become brittle? If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia then it could be worth trying to get a test.


Are you just feeling abnormally tired all the time? If you’re struggling with tiredness then I’d recommend asking your doctor about a coeliac disease test to rule it out.

sarah howells gfblogger
Since my diagnosis I’ve learned to love food again – and hope I can share this with everyone!

What do I do if I think I have coeliac disease?

If you have any unexplained or recurring symptoms you should always speak to your doctor.

It is very important that you do this before cutting out gluten. For a coeliac disease test to be accurate you have to be eating gluten regularly in the build up.

This is because the blood test is looking for the autoimmune response to gluten – if you don’t eat gluten, there will be no response.

If you think you may have symptoms of coeliac disease:
  • Continue to eat gluten as normal.
  • Take the Coeliac UK online self assessment.
  • Book an appointment with your GP.
  • Take the self assessment results and a list of your symptoms to your appointment and ask to be tested for coeliac disease.

How do you test for coeliac disease?

Testing for coeliac disease in the UK is first done through a blood test, and then a further biopsy via endoscopy.

This is not necessary in every case but is largely the main way coeliac disease is diagnosed.

For a more detailed outline of coeliac disease, diagnosis and treatment, you can visit my coeliac disease FAQs to read more.

A final thought

With an estimated 500,000 people thought to have undiagnosed coeliac disease, it’s vital we keep trying to raise awareness of these lesser-known symptoms.

If you have coeliac disease yourself, there is also a 1 in 10 chance that a close relative (i.e. parent, sibling, child) will have it too.

First-degree relatives of people with coeliac disease are entitled to have a blood test to check this whether they have symptoms or not.

This is especially important given some people have ‘silent’ coeliac which means they have the condition, it’s doing damage, but they have ZERO symptoms.

So if you have coeliac disease and your close relatives have not been tested, please consider speaking to them about it and letting them know its an option.

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About Sarah Howells

Hi, I'm Sarah! Diagnosed with coeliac disease 20 years ago, I'm on a mission to create the best gluten free recipes since sliced bread. No fruit salads or dry brownies here.

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