Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an uncomfortable gastrointestinal disorder that causes discomfort in the large intestine. Experienced between 10 to 15 percent of Americans, IBS is a disorder that actually changes the functional capacity of the digestive system, characterized by abdominal pain, altered bowel movements, increased gas and bloating, and food intolerance. IBS has been shown to affect about 14 percent of children, and a recent study, published this month in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, now suggests that children with IBS could be at higher risk of developing celiac disease.
Researchers from the University of Bari, in Italy, have determined that IBS in children may be a good future indicator of celiac disease risk. Having evaluated close to a thousand children, researchers found that children who had IBS were four times more likely to have celiac disease. 270 children in the study had IBS, and nearly four-and-a-half percent of them were also diagnosed with celiac disease. This was a sharp increase in comparison to children without IBS, whose incidence of celiac disease was barely one percent.
When blood samples of the children were taken, 15 of them came back positive for IBS. Of the 15 with IBS, 12 also had IBS. The researchers concluded that above other symptoms, IBS in children heightened the risk of developing celiac disease. It was recommended that pediatricians begin monitoring for celiac disease once children have been diagnosed with IBS.
Currently, one out of a hundred children is affected by celiac disease, and many children may be left undiagnosed. The disease, which has just recently begun to grab more widespread attention, is brought on by a sensitivity to food that contains gluten. The recent craze surrounding food containing gluten, however, has many people suspicious of it being just another health trend, and question the research suggesting that gluten may in fact be harmful. Because public awareness of both gluten allergies and celiac disease is still limited, testing for celiac disease has remained fairly low. Celiac Central, a website that delivers facts and statistics about the disorder, reports that 83 percent of Americans who have celiac disease may be undiagnosed.
For children, celiac disease can be particularly dangerous if left undiagnosed. Children with celiac disease who continue to consume gluten risk seriously damaging the inside of the small intestine and also interferes with nutrient absorption. For children, who depend on nutrients to facilitate proper growth and development, consuming gluten when a sensitivity to it is present could slow their growth, weaken their bones, and experience chronic symptoms of diarrhea, weakness, and fatigue.
Although IBS does not cause any permanent damage to the intestines, and is generally controllable, celiac disease does. Co-author of the study, Ruggiero Francavilla, said that understanding IBS as a high risk indicator of celiac disease will help in with pediatric care. This will be incredibly helpful for children who are suffering, and ensure that they receive the proper treatment to prevent the disease from worsening.
It is estimated that the diagnoses of celiac disease will increase 50 percent by 2019. If left undiagnosed and untreated celiac disease may cause other health problems, including infertility, a reduction in bone density, neurological disorders, and some autoimmune diseases. For children, having IBS may put them at higher risk for developing celiac disease, which could leave them vulnerable to a variety of other health complications. Early diagnosis could improve their chances of leading healthy lives and reduce the risk of developing other more dangerous disorders as they mature.
By Natalia Sanchez