Functional Abdominal Pain in Children with Celiac Disease

F Cristofori et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021; 19: 2551-2558. Functional Abdominal Pain Disorders and Constipation in Children on Gluten-Free Diet

This prospective cohort (2016-2018, n=417, mean age 13.7 y) examined the frequency of functional disorders (based on questionnaire) in children with celiac disease (CD) who were receiving a strict gluten free diet (GFD) for at least one year.

Key findings:

  • Functional abdominal pain disorders (FAPDs) had a higher prevalence s among patients with CD (11.5%) than controls (6.7%)  (P < .05)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional constipation (FC) defined by the Rome IV criteria were more prevalent in patients with CD (7.2% for IBS and 19.9% for FC) than controls (3.2% for IBS and 10.5% for FC) (P < .05 and P < .001, respectively)
  • Younger age (P < .05) and a higher level of anti–transglutaminase IgA at diagnosis (P < .04) were associated with FAPDs (in particular for IBS) irrespective of GFD duration
  • A GFD did help with abdominal pain: After starting a GFD, 80% of children with celiac disease had resolution of stomach pain, whereas 9% started to complain of symptoms after starting a GFD

In the discussion, the authors speculate on the reasons for ongoing pain including inadvertent gluten exposure, intestinal inflammation/visceral hyperalgesia, altered microbiome, and refractory CD.

My take: Persistent stomach pain in CD is a common occurrence, even in those trying to adhere to a strict GFD.

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