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Vitamin Deficiencies & Celiac Disease

author image Danna Biala
Danna Biala began writing professionally in 2010. She is completing her master’s degree in applied physiology and nutrition from Columbia University and is currently interning to become a registered dietitian. Biala holds a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from Brandeis University.
Vitamin Deficiencies & Celiac Disease
A doctor talks to her patient about vitamin deficiencies due to celiac disease. Photo Credit: gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Celiac disease is a multisystem autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten, the main storage protein found primarily in wheat, barley and rye. The body treats gluten as a foreign body and inflames the villi of the small intestine to protect it from this invader. The villi eventually become damaged and are unable to absorb nutrients properly, especially vitamins that are crucial to body growth, function and metabolism.

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Vitamin D, Magnesium and Calcium

People with celiac disease often have deficiencies of vitamin D and magnesium, which can compound and worsen the malabsorption of calcium, leading to low bone density and osteoporosis. A deficiency of vitamin D manifests symptoms such as muscle weakness, bone pain, soft bones and rickets or skeletal deformities. The July 2013 issue of the "Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology" reports that if you have celiac disease and a vitamin D deficiency you have a greater risk of developing psoriasis.

Since the body only uses small amounts of magnesium, this deficiency can be corrected. Calcium is one of the most common deficiencies associated with celiac disease. Damage to the intestines leads to an inability to absorb calcium. When the supply of calcium is low, calcium is pulled from the bone reservoir in order to provide calcium for the bloodstream. Eventually, the reservoir starts to dry up and the bones become brittle, a sign of osteoporosis. Low calcium can also cause convulsions and parasthesias, or a feeling of “pins and needles.”

Folic Acid

Folic acid is best absorbed in the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, so people with celiac disease may suffer from a deficiency in this vitamin, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. A deficiency can increase irritability and forgetfulness, and plays a role in neurological defects, anemia, blood disorders, GI disturbances and depressive symptoms.

Vitamin B-12

A deficiency in vitamin B-12 is common in patients with celiac disease, as indicated in a study published in March 2001 in the "American Journal of Gastroenterology." When the last part of the small intestine is damaged, which can occur with severe cases of celiac disease, vitamin B-12 malabsorption may result. This deficiency can cause anemia, peripheral neuropathy, balance disturbances and dementia.

Vitamins A, E and K

Fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K are also absorbed in the upper intestine, so those with celiac disease who have damage to their intestinal villi will have deficiencies. A deficiency in vitamin A can cause anemia, night blindness and reproductive, vision and growth problems. A vitamin D deficiency causes soft, deformed bones in children and can contribute to calcium and bone problems like osteoporosis in adults. Vitamin E deficiency has been associated with neurological problems, while vitamin K deficiency impedes blood clotting. Without vitamin K, your risk of bleeding greatly increases. A report in the November 2007 issue of the "Journal of General Internal Medicine" states that unexplained hemorrhaging from vitamin K deficiency is a major sign of celiac disease.

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