Did you know that celiac researchers now believe there are four different types of celiac disease? I find this a little odd because I know of at least one more serious one — non-responsive celiac disease. So I’m including this fifth type in my list.
These types include:
I’ll go over these in more detail in other lessons on the site, but in short, here are the differences:
Silent – Silent celiac disease exists if you don’t experience any known symptoms of celiac disease but test positive for it. This is usually discovered by a doctor who is examining you for another condition and discovers that you’re at risk for celiac disease (family history, perhaps).
I personally wonder if cases of silent celiac disease will diminish as we instead discover new conditions and symptoms associated with this stealthy autoimmune disease. In fact, that already seems to be happening.
Latent – As discussed in one of my recent newsletters, latent celiac disease is when you currently test negative for celiac disease, but eventually develop it. Latent celiac disease is almost always diagnosed retrospectively.
I received some great emails on the matter of latent celiac disease in response to one of my newsletters. It’s clear that latent celiac disease is a frustrating and confusing topic for many people.
Typical – “Typical” celiac disease produces all of the symptoms most stereotypically associated with gluten intolerance and celiac disease: gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Basically, it is where celiac disease clearly manifests itself along your intestinal tract with its most well-known symptoms.
Atypical – Atypical celiac disease occurs when patients test positive for celiac disease but they don’t have the obvious gastrointestinal symptoms. Instead, when someone has atypical celiac disease they tend to develop symptoms extra-intestinally, which means they develop symptoms beyond their gut. This includes migraines, ataxia, neuropathy, joint pain and more. Some researchers even believe celiac disease may manifest neurological symptoms more often than gastrointestinal symptoms.
Non-Responsive – Non-responsive celiac disease rears its ugly head when celiac disease doesn’t respond to a gluten-free diet. In the past, patients were often then diagnosed as having refractory celiac disease, which is a very serious condition with potentially severe long-term consequences. Recently, however, we’ve discovered that many cases of non-responsive celiac disease may have been a result of the cross-contamination of gluten-free grains with trace amounts of gluten.
On the whole, I’m somewhat skeptical of some of these terms and I wonder if some of them represent a transitional period of understanding of gluten and its influence on our bodies. In fact, I’m not confident calling them different “types” will remain as an accurate term. I think it may be better to describe them as five different manifestations of celiac disease.
But if you are discussing the possibility of celiac disease with your doctor, make sure he or she is up-to-speed on the five different manifestations of this disease. If your doctor is up-to-speed on these possibilities, he or she will be less likely to brush off the possibility of celiac disease being present just because you’re not having the most obvious and stereotypical symptoms.