Did you know that if you have celiac disease or a non-celiac gluten sensitivity you may bruise more easily? There are three main reasons for this high correlation.
How Vitamin Deficiencies Lead to Easy Bruising
The first two relate to damage or inflammation in your small intestine. If gluten has triggered damage or inflammation to your proximal intestine (the duodenum), your body won’t efficiently absorb two important healing nutrients: vitamin C and vitamin K.
If your body isn’t absorbing enough vitamin C, you could develop scurvy, which even in moderate cases can result in fragile capillaries. With fragile capillaries, you are more likely to experience bruising even when the pressure or contact isn’t severe or even noticeable.
If you aren’t absorbing enough vitamin K, you may suffer from improper blood coagulation. This means even minor blows can cause internal bleeding and bruising.
Autoimmunity Causing Low Blood Platelets
The third reason celiac disease may correlate with excessive bruising is a condition called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). This is also sometimes referred to as immune thrombocytopenia. ITP is is an autoimmune phenomenon where your body’s immune system attacks its own platelets, reducing your platelet count. When this occurs, excess bruising and bleeding can occur.
ITP sometimes appears as batches of small bruise-like markings on your skin (the tell-tale “purpura”).
Remember, when you have one autoimmune disease, like celiac disease, you have a greater risk of other autoimmune diseases, thus there is a relatively high correlation between ITP and celiac disease.
Stop The Bruising
A healthy, strict gluten-free diet and healthy lifestyle should, in time, eliminate vitamin C and vitamin K deficiencies. If you continue to bruise easily six to eight weeks into your new gluten-free life, discuss the matter with your doctor as another underlying condition may be causing the problem. I don’t mean to cause alarm, but in relatively rare cases chronic low blood platelets may indicate some serious conditions, including leukemia.
More likely, however, you might just need to discuss the matter with a dietitian or try the Gluten Contamination Elimination Diet.
If you’re diagnosed with ITP, you may need to avoid medications that affect platelet formation, such as fish oil, aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil). If a healthy lifestyle and diet is maintained, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura in children usually passes in about six months. It may take a little longer in adults, and if it remains, more serious medical treatment may be necessary. This includes corticosteroids, and in some rare cases, a splenectomy (removal of part or whole of the spleen).
Watch for easy bruising, as it may be one of few identifiable silent celiac disease symptoms. However, it’s important to note that in most people with gluten intolerance, a strict, healthy gluten-free diet is usually sufficient to address the matter.