Recently, a reader of The Savvy Celiac posted on our Facebook page asking about celiac and pancreatitis.  She writes:  

I am trying to find some help. I was wanting to know if Celiac can cause pancreatitis… Has anyone had this happen? If so what and how can I help my husband…

pancreatitisWhen I inquired with her further, earlier this spring, she explained  her husband was undiagnosed for years and was diagnosed with celiac at the age of 45.  He has been gluten free for one year. 

Celiac and Pancreatitis in Research

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Pancreatitis is inflammation in the pancreas. The pancreas is a long, flat gland that sits tucked behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. The pancreas produces enzymes that assist digestion and hormones that help regulate the way your body processes sugar (glucose).”  It can occur as acute pancreatitis and come on suddenly and just last for a few days or chronic pancreatitis which lasts for years.

Research over the 15 years points to people with celiac disease being at increased risk for pancreatitis.  The study entitled, Risk of Pancreatitis in 14,000 Individuals with Celiac Diseasepublished online in August of 2007, confirmed that there was an increased risk o people with celiac disease getting pancreatitis.  The research stated “The risk increase for pancreatitis was only found among individuals with [celiac disease] diagnosed in adulthood.”

A 1999 study published by PubMed concluded, celiac should be considered as the cause for papillary stenosis or recurrent pancreatitis that has an unknown cause.

And just last fall Current Opinion in Gastroenterology and MedScape published greater insight into the topic.  This paper agreed with the fact that there is an increased risk of developing pancreatitis if you have celiac disease. The authors in this study reported a “three-fold increased risk [for celiacs] developing any pancreatitis compared with the general population.”  But they did have some concerns about the 2007 study which are detailed here.  

A 2012 case report found celiac was the cause in acute pancreatitis of a patient.  It cited several reasons this could happen, including malnutrition and “Papillary Stenosis resulting from localized duodenal inflammation”.

The Cleveland Clinic also has information on its website that pancreatitis could be a sign of celiac and should be considered when investigating a celiac diagnosis.

So can  celiac disease cause pancreatitis?  There is a lot of research suggesting it can. If you have questions about either of these conditions, check with your medical professional.  

I am not a doctor.  If you have questions about celiac disease, gluten free diet or another condition discussed on this website, please see your medical professional or nutritionist.

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