Digestive Health

Updated 24 April 2017

Symptoms of coeliac disease

The symptoms of coeliac disease may vary from one person to the next and may range from mild to severe.


Coeliac disease or otherwise known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy is a digestive and autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the lining of the small intestine when foods containing gluten are eaten. The damage that these foods cause to the intestine makes it difficult for the body to absorb essential nutrients such as calcium, fat, folate and iron.
Symptoms of coeliac disease vary and include:

• Symptoms of malabsorption of food such as weight loss and diarrhoea. They may also show abnormal results on laboratory tests that measure how effectively the small intestine absorbs food.
• Some people may suffer from abdominal discomfort and bloating as well. 
• Other unusual manifestations include skin lesions and neurological disturbances such as difficulty walking and imbalance.
• If the malabsorption is sufficiently severe, anaemia may develop in both adults and children. This may be due to malabsorption of essential vitamins such as folic acid, Vitamin D and vitamin B12, as well as iron.

Read more: 

What causes coeliac disease?

How to diagnose coeliac disease

How coeliac disease can be treated

Reviewed by Dr Ismail Moola MBCHB (UCT) FCP (SA) Cert Gastro Phys (SA).

Specialist Physician / Gastroenterologist Netcare Sunninghill Hospital and part time Lecturer Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Wits University.
Previously reviewed by Dr G Watermeyer MBChBFCP (SA), Cert Gastroenterology (SA), Consultant GIT Clinic Groote Schuur Hospital.


Ask the Expert

Digestive Health Expert

Dr. Estelle Wilken is a Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. She obtained her MBChB in 1976, her MMed (Int) in 1991 and her gastroenterology registration in 1995.

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