Can Celiac Disease Cause Weight Gain?

Last Updated on June 1, 2024

Today, we’re going to be looking at being diagnosed with celiac disease, and if celiac disease can cause weight gain? The simple answer is yes, but there are many layers to unravel. Let’s first talk about what the disease is. The NHS states that,

“Coeliac disease is a condition where your immune system attacks your own tissues when you eat gluten. This damages your gut (small intestine) so you are unable to take in nutrients. Coeliac disease can cause a range of symptoms, including diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloating. Coeliac disease is caused by an adverse reaction to gluten.”

When I finally did receive my diagnosis, a lot of changes started happening to my body. One of those changes being weight loss. Before you receive your diagnosis, you’ll more than likely be eating all the trouble foods – barley, rye, oats, wheat, and spelt.

Knowing Your Body

When you’re gluten intolerant, your body struggles to absorb the protein itself and creates a number of problems internally – most importantly for this post, weight gain and weight loss; all depending on the individual. Weight loss is seen as one of the most common features of celiac disease. This means that obese celiac individuals are often overlooked. It’s important to remember that sustaining a healthy weight is what’s difficult for someone with celiac disease because our bodies aren’t absorbing the protein as they should.

In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, they found “15.2% of adults with celiac disease were overweight when they were diagnosed and 6.8% were obese. Together, these outnumbered the 17.3% who were underweight.” This is probably a surprising find for whoever is reading this as weight loss is always listed as one of the most common symptoms – not weight gain.

Weight Loss Or Weight Gain? Undiagnosed Celiac Disease And Weight Gain

As it’s so hard to distinguish by weight alone – it’s important to look out for other symptoms of celiac disease. So if you feel as though you’re losing or gaining an amount of weight that doesn’t feel right for you, along with any of these symptoms – get yourself to a doctor.

  • abdominal pain
  • bloating and flatulence (passing wind)
  • indigestion
  • constipation
  • fatigue
  • anemia
  • diarrhea

In my personal experience, I lost weight after diagnosis. Although I was having to go to the bathroom between 10-15 times a day, my stomach was so bloated that I lost almost a stone in the first week or so. My pregnant-looking tummy was no more!

Once your diagnosis is complete and you begin your new lifestyle, this is when you may notice weight gain occurring. Weight gain is more common than weight loss after diagnosis. Your body starts to heal once you remove gluten from your diet, and is able to absorb the nutrients it needs again. Now that your body is behaving the way it should, the increased absorption can lead to unwanted weight gain.

There’s a variety of factors that may cause the weight gain to happen including, “greater absorption of calories by more developed intestines, the potential lack of nutritional balance in strict gluten-free diets, and the worldwide trend toward weight gain and obesity”.

Tips To Prevent Celiac Weight Gain

  • Gluten-free foods are often calorie-dense, so follow serving suggestions as close as possible to avoid overeating.
  • Fresh foods are often healthier and better for you than products that have been made gluten-free, so try to shop for natural foods as often as you can (i.e. meat, fish, fruits, and veg).

 Fresh foods

Learn more about: Do Salad Dressings Have Gluten?

  • Foods high in fiber keep you fuller for longer, so try incorporating them within your meals. Coeliac UK has a range of options, how much you should be having, and tips for adding more to your diet.
  • Since diagnosis, I’ve found when I find gluten-free snacks that are tasty like cookies and chips, I’m so much more excited than I was pre-diagnosis because I feel deprived of them. I enjoy unhealthy snacks now far more than I used to – I took my options for granted before diagnosis.
  • Visit a dietician. It can feel extremely overwhelming when you’ve just been diagnosed and hard to navigate what’s best for you. Seeing a dietician who can help you plan meals and give you as much information as you need on your new lifestyle is extremely helpful.
  • You know your body best. If you feel like you aren’t eating enough, or too much – listen to what your body is telling you.

Weight Loss

We’ve been looking mostly at weight gain, but as mentioned, weight loss is also common. Malnutrition is a very common symptom of undiagnosed celiac disease. This is when your small intestine doesn’t get enough nutrients. Malnutrition then causes weight loss and anemia. When I had a full blood test and was diagnosed with anemia, it was the first sign the doctors had that I was gluten-intolerant. I was deficient in iron, folate, and B12 – something that is seen very often in undiagnosed cases.

Does Celiac Disease Cause Weight Gain? Everybody Is Different

So we’ve found the answer to “can celiac disease cause weight gain?” I think the most important thing to remember is that every person has their own individual set of symptoms. With celiac disease, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all, so if you’re not meeting the expected “norms” that the internet is telling you – I’m here to say: there are no norms. Whilst you may have put on two stones before diagnosis; some people will put on two stones after – and that’s okay. It’s about listening to what your body is telling you and looking after its needs.

As long as you’re following a healthy, well-balanced diet and exercising regularly; your body will respond. As long as gluten isn’t being ingested anymore, your body will heal internally and things will become easier. What’s been your experiences pre and post-diagnosis? I would love to hear your stories.

Read about who can alert their owners to the presence of gluten: Celiac Disease Service Dogs