There is a Connection between Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes

Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes

There is a sure connection between Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes.

Individuals with CD are more likely to have other autoimmune disorders than the general population. For example, 5-10% of those with CD also have Type 1 diabetes.

Even if you do not have diabetes, this is important information. Chances are you know a diabetic. If you do, be the BEST kind of friend and share this information with them, especially if they have symptoms of Celiac disease or unresolved health issues. You may help someone progress along the path to optimal health by doing so.

Before we dive in to look at the CD-Type 1 Diabetes connection, let’s first understand exactly what diabetes is. We’ll focus on Type 1 diabetes, the type associated with CD. Next, we’ll expose a few not-so-sweet myths about diabetes and check out the facts science has for us. Finally, we’ll talk about a few challenges faced by diabetics when they first go gluten free.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes affects nearly 26 million individuals in the US. Formally known asDiabetes mellitus, diabetes refers to a group of diseases resulting in high blood sugar.

{blood sugar ~ glucose, the body’s primary source of energy, in the blood}

Even though we like to keep it simple, we need a little more information than just “high blood sugar” to have a solid understanding of diabetes. Let’s look at how the body’s systems work together to regulate our blood sugar. Then, we’ll see what happens when things don’t work exactly as they should.

When we eat, food is broken down into glucose, the main source of energy for our cells. Some glucose travels from the intestines directly into the blood.

This causes the pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin signals cells in the body to allow glucose in for immediate use as energy, or to be stored for later.

{pancreas ~ a digestive organ that is part of the endocrine system.}

{insulin ~ a hormone produced by beta cells in the pancreas; it is responsible for regulating the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats in the body and converting them into energy.}

Glucose not immediately needed for energy is stored as glycogen. This is important because excess glucose in the blood stream is toxic to our system. It can cause damage to many body systems and organs like our cardiovascular system and kidneys, and can even lead to blindness.

{glycogen ~ the main way our bodies store excess glucose; glycogen is stored in liver, muscle, and fat cells in the body to be used later as energy.}

Too little glucose in the blood for our cells to use as energy is not good, either. There must be balance.

To achieve this balance, when the amount of glucose in the blood (blood sugar) drops below a certain level, our bodies convert stored glycogen back to glucose and send it into the blood stream to be used as energy.

Insulin is necessary for this to occur. Without it, glucose cannot enter the cells in our body or be converted to, and stored as, glycogen for later use.

It is when insulin levels in the body are out of control that diabetes results.

There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational diabetes.

In Type 1 diabetes, the form associated with CD, the cells in the pancreas responsible for producing insulin are destroyed by the body and do not produce insulin. Individuals with this form of diabetes must take insulin injections to keep their blood glucose levels regulated. This type of diabetes is sometimes called “Juvenile diabetes” because it is diagnosed most often in children and younger individuals.

The type of diabetes associated with adults (“Adult Onset diabetes”) is Type 2 diabetes. Individuals with Type 2 produce insulin, but it is either not enough to carry out the necessary functions detailed above, or the body does not respond properly to insulin.

The third type of diabetes is Gestational diabetes. This condition occurs in a small percentage of pregnant women and typically goes away after pregnancy. There is an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life for a woman who has gestational diabetes.

Now that we have a general understanding of what diabetes is, let’s look at the connection between Type 1 Diabetes and CD.

The Connection between Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes

Like CD, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. This means the body attacks its own tissues. In the case of CD, the body attacks the small intestine when gluten is consumed. In Type 1 diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas are attacked, leading to an inability to produce the insulin necessary to regulate blood sugar levels. (Why this occurs in Type 1 diabetes is not fully understood.)


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