You can have obesity and receive a diagnosis of celiac disease. If you have a moderate weight at diagnosis, it’s possible to gain weight on a gluten-free diet.

Celiac disease is an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. If a person with celiac disease consumes gluten in foods or medications, it may damage their small intestine.

Celiac disease is also known as sprue, nontropical sprue, or gluten-sensitive enteropathy.

More research into obesity and celiac disease is still needed, but whether you have underweight or obesity, you can have celiac disease too.

You can also gain weight after starting a gluten-free diet.

Celiac disease can sometimes go undetected, so it’s important to let your doctor know if you are having symptoms of celiac disease.

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

Symptoms of celiac disease include:

Learn more about the symptoms of celiac disease.

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You can have obesity when you receive a diagnosis of celiac disease. One 2021 study reported approximately 8.1% of the screened individuals had obesity at the time they got their diagnosis of celiac disease, but this number could be as high as 44%.

People with celiac disease can also develop obesity. A gluten-free diet high in processed foods and low in whole foods can be nutritionally unbalanced and lead to weight gain whether you have underweight or overweight.

More research is still needed to understand whether obesity increases the risk of celiac disease.

Especially because celiac disease can go undiagnosed, it’s hard to determine whether people who have obesity and receive a diagnosis of celiac disease had the condition before they had obesity and whether extra weight contributed to developing celiac disease.

One thing to keep in mind is that celiac disease and obesity can increase the risk of a variety of health conditions.

For example, a 2021 study found that individuals with celiac disease who consumed a gluten-free diet had a higher risk of metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease.

Read more about the potential health complications and risks of celiac disease.

It’s possible for the body to stop tolerating gluten later in life. Research from 2013 suggests that things that affect the immune system may trigger celiac disease, like:

  • pregnancy
  • surgery
  • stress or emotional trauma
  • infections and seemingly otherwise unrelated illnesses

More research in this area is still needed to better understand the factors that may trigger celiac disease.

When celiac disease is treated and well managed, you can live a long, healthy life.

However, when left untreated, celiac disease can be associated with other health conditions, including type 1 diabetes and intestinal lymphoma, which can reduce life expectancy.

A 2020 study found a slightly increased risk of death for people with celiac disease. Although this risk was present across all ages, it was greater in people diagnosed between 18 and 39 years old compared with those diagnosed in their 40–60s or older.

Individuals with celiac disease who have obesity may also experience health complications and a reduced life expectancy.

Research on obesity indicates that severe obesity can reduce life span by 6.5–13.7 years. This is similar to the difference in life expectancy between a current smoker and someone who has never smoked.

It’s not unusual for people with obesity to also receive a diagnosis of celiac disease, but more research is still needed to determine the role obesity may play in developing celiac disease. It’s important to talk with a doctor if you are having symptoms of celiac disease, no matter your weight.

Weight loss may be a symptom of celiac disease, but eating a gluten-free diet high in processed foods and low in whole foods can cause weight gain.

Your doctor or a dietitian can recommend nutritious, gluten-free foods to help you maintain your well-being.