Can someone have both conditions?

People with one autoimmune condition are at risk of developing another. A person can also have lupus and celiac disease together, although this is relatively rare.

Lupus and celiac disease are chronic autoimmune diseases, meaning they occur when the body mistakenly attacks its own healthy tissue.

Autoimmune diseases affect more than 24 million people in the United States. Experts estimate that lupus and celiac disease affect around 1.5 million people 2 millions individuals in the United States, respectively.

Autoimmune diseases are affecting more people, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, but scientists aren’t sure why. Research suggests that various factors, including stress and climate change, may contribute to the increase in cases of autoimmune disease.

In systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the more common type of lupus, the immune system can attack any part of the body, causing symptoms in different organs. However, with celiac disease, damage occurs in the small intestine as a result of ingesting gluten, although celiac disease it can also cause symptoms in other parts of the body.

This article explores lupus and celiac disease by discussing whether someone can have both conditions and the symptoms they can develop. Plus, explore some dietary advice for people with both conditions and when to talk to a doctor.

The Celiac Disease Foundation explains that people with one autoimmune disease are prone to developing another. The older a person is when a doctor diagnoses them with celiac disease, the higher their risk of developing another autoimmune condition.

Lupus is an autoimmune condition that a person with celiac disease can develop. The Celiac Disease Foundation notes that while there is some overlap between lupus and celiac disease, scientists have not established a specific cause or correlation between the two conditions.

A small 2021 study tested 130 SLE patients for celiac disease. Of the total study group, 40% had gastrointestinal symptoms. The researchers diagnosed 3% with celiac disease using biopsies and their response to a gluten-free diet. This prevalence of celiac disease is five times higher than the prevalence within the general population.

However, the authors of a 2021 case study highlighted that overlapping symptoms can make diagnosis difficult for doctors, and that having SLE and celiac disease at the same time is rare.

Research suggests that there is an overlap in clinical and laboratory findings between standalone SLE and celiac disease. This makes the judgment of doctors extremely important when someone is suspected of having both conditions. The gastrointestinal symptoms of SLE can be wide-ranging and difficult to distinguish from celiac disease.

Gastrointestinal symptoms that can be present in both SLE and celiac disease to include:

In someone with celiac disease, there may be symptoms in other parts of the body that could indicate SLE. These may include:

The list above is not exhaustive, and people may experience other symptoms of SLE.

Doctors typically evaluate a person’s symptoms and use blood tests and biopsies to diagnose celiac disease. Doctors or rheumatologists can diagnose SLE using various tools such as physical exams, symptom assessments and medical history, X-rays, and laboratory tests.

People who have celiac disease should avoid gluten. Gluten is found naturally in some grains, such as wheat and barley, and in all foods containing these grains, such as pasta and bread. Additionally, it may be present in some processed and packaged foods.

A doctor or dietitian can advise someone with celiac disease on what they can eat. They should also check food packaging and restaurant menus for gluten-containing ingredients.

There is no specific diet for lupus, but experts recommend eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods.

Therefore, for those with both SLE and celiac disease, the following naturally gluten-free whole foods may be suitableinclude in your diet:

  • vegetables and fruits
  • some whole grains such as brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth
  • healthy proteins such as beans, soy, eggs, lean meat, poultry and seafood
  • healthy sources of fat such as avocados, nuts, olive oil and oily fish

A healthcare professional may recommend that someone with SLE and borderline celiac disease:

However, people should talk to a doctor or dietitian to determine which foods might be best to include or avoid in their diet.

If someone with an autoimmune disease has new or worrying symptoms, they should contact their doctor, who can evaluate their condition and recommend appropriate treatment.

A doctor or dietitian can also help someone plan a safe, nutritious diet that won’t worsen symptoms and lead to further complications.

While it is possible to have both lupus and celiac disease together, this is a rare occurrence. Lupus can affect any system or organ in the body, including the digestive system. Therefore, it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose celiac disease in someone with lupus.

In an individual with existing celiac disease, symptoms elsewhere in the body may indicate that lupus is developing.

A nutritious diet for someone with lupus and celiac disease can consist of nutrient-dense whole foods that are gluten-free. People should speak to a healthcare professional for individual advice on diet and nutrition.

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