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Study Ties Irritable Bowel Syndrome to Celiac Disease in Children

Update Date: Apr 22, 2014 11:39 AM EDT

In a new study, researchers reported that bowel illnesses in children might be linked to one another. The findings revealed that children suffering from irritable bowel syndrome were four times more likely than children without the condition to suffer from celiac disease, which is a condition caused by a gluten allergy.

"Celiac disease can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome," Dr. William Muinos, co-director of the division of gastroenterology at Miami Chidlren's Hospital said. Dr. Muinos was not a part of the study. "Celiac disease is something you can treat once you find it."

For this study, lead investigator Dr. Ruggiero Francavilla and colleagues examined 782 children suffering from stomach issues. 270 of them had irritable bowel syndrome, which causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. 201 suffered from chronic indigestion and 311 had stomach pains. The researchers tested all of the children for celiac disease.

Out of the 782 children, 15 were diagnosed with celiac disease. 12 had irritable bowel syndrome, two had chronic indigestion and one suffered from stomach pain. Even though the researchers did not find a cause and effect relationship, they believe that children with irritable bowel syndrome could benefit greatly if they were screened for celiac disease. Since celiac disease is caused by an allergy, changing one's diet can drastically improve symptoms and overall wellbeing.

"Celiac screening should be addressed only in irritable bowel syndrome children rather than all the population with abdominal pain, since in those with abdominal pain not related to irritable bowel syndrome, the risk of having celiac disease is identical to the general pediatric population," Francavilla stated according to WebMD.

Dr. Mitchell Cohen, co-author of an accompanying journal editorial, warned, "We can help diagnose and treat children with celiac disease by screening children with irritable bowel syndrome. However, if the approach is not selective, many children will have false-positive test results that will cause more endoscopy and false worry."

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

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