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Diabetes and coeliac disease

Compared to the general population, the incidence rate of coeliac disease in people with type 1 diabetes is approximately 3–4 times higher.

In the image is is a white human figure with the stomach and intestines illustrated in a distinct red.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease caused by gluten, a protein present in wheat, rye and barley. In a person with a hereditary disposition, gluten attacks the cells of the mucous membrane covering the inside of the gut (small intestine). As a consequence of the attack, the tiny hairs called cilia in the mucous membrane atrophy, reducing the absorption of nutrients. Approximately 10–20 percent of gluten intolerant people also have dermatitis herpetiformis.

Roughly 10 per cent of children with type 1 diabetes are diagnosed with coeliac disease. For people who get diabetes as an adult, the corresponding figure is approximately 2–5 per cent. According to the Finnish FinnDiane research, the incidence rate of coeliac disease in adults with type 1 diabetes was 4.4 percent, whereas it was 1 percent amongst the control group.

There is no difference in the prevalence of coeliac disease between people with type 2 diabetes and the general population.

Normally, the blood test to screen for coeliac disease is done when type 1 diabetes is first diagnosed and then, for example, once per year for children and approximately every five years for adults.

The gluten-free diet poses a challenge especially in terms of estimating the amount of carbohydrates in gluten-free products. Once you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease and later, as required, a nutritional therapist can help you with planning your individual diet.

Updated 8.11.2023