Anaemia and Coeliac Disease

November 12, 2009

The most common type of anaemia is Iron Deficiency Anaemia. Iron is an important part of haemoglobin which is the oxygen-carrying pigment in the blood.

Your blood usually gets iron from the food you eat and by reusing the iron in old blood cells. When your blood is not gathering enough iron from you food you become anaemic, symptoms of anaemia include being easily tired, fatigued, or prone to other illnesses.

Well before the sensitive blood tests that we have today, that detect gluten sensitivity and coeliac disease, some doctors realised that iron deficiency anaemia could be caused by coeliac disease. A case from 1994 demonstrates this.

A 40 year old woman ha suffered from iron deficiency anaemia for 2 years without her doctors being able to determine the cause. Multiple endoscopic examinations had not revealed any abnormalities of her gastrointestinal system. Iron supplements had no effect, and eventually her doctor performed a biopsy revealing she had coeliac disease. She started a strict gluten free diet and her bloods iron levels increased. Her anaemia went away.

Researchers reported in 2001 that coeliac disease was diagnosed in 13.7% (26 out of 190) of people who had iron deficiency anaemia. These individuals were put on a gluten free diet, to determine there progress they were tested at 6, 12 and 24 months after going on the diet.

After 6 months on the gluten free diet, 77.8% of the patients had recovered from anaemia; only 27.8% had reversed their iron deficiency. After 12 months all but one patient recovered from anaemia and 50% had recovered from iron deficiency. After 24 months only one individual was still anaemic.

These results lead the researchers to conclude that screening for coeliac disease should be done in adults with iron deficiency anaemia. Adhering to a gluten free diet allows the intestine to heal, and as a result the anaemia goes away after 6-12 months.

A more recent study published in 2004 discovered a different rate of coeliac disease, 2.8% of 105 people with iron deficiency anaemia then the first study. The authors make a similar conclusion, that the ability to treat coeliac disease is why it should be a suspected cause of unexplained iron deficiency anaemia.

So, are you are tired and possibly achy all the time, and can’t figure out why? Go gluten free and see what happens.

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  1. What is Silent Coeliac Disease?
  2. Gluten Free Supermarket Shopping
  3. Nutritional Treatments

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