Can You Develop Celiac Disease?

The short answer from a gastroenterologist
Woman declines offer of bread due to celiac disease

Q: Can you develop celiac disease? Or are you born with it?

A: There has been some controversy about this, but now I think the evidence is there showing that you can develop celiac disease at any age.

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Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. We know that nearly everyone with celiac disease has at least one of two specific genes. But not everyone who has one of those genes develops the condition.

So there is some kind of genetic predisposition to it, but there are also other factors involved.

Most people who are diagnosed with celiac disease are adults. So someone who is born with the genetic risk for the condition can have no autoimmune reaction to gluten for many years, and then for some reason, they break that tolerance to eating gluten and start developing symptoms.

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Studies have confirmed this. One recent study tested people’s blood samples at two different points in time for high levels of tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibodies, which are biomarkers for celiac disease. The researchers found 49 cases where participants who initially had negative tTGA test results had positive results during the later test.

Other studies have described celiac disease diagnoses after the age of 60, providing further evidence that it can develop later in life.

Gastroenterologist and celiac disease specialist Alberto Rubio-Tapia, MD

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