Gluten Free Guerrillas
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Connection between coeliac and gallstones?

Hi, I've been posting on the Restless Leg Syndrome forum, asking if anyone has experienced wheat making their RLS worse. In the course of this I had an American user saying that her coeliac disease had been brought on by gallbladder removal, which I'd never heard of. When I queried this she gave me some info and I checked it out and discovered it's quite a thing, at least in the US, to believe that gallbladder surgery causes coeliac disease. While I'm not sure I believe that (it seems a very vague and tenuous correlation without any concrete evidence), what I did discover is there DOES seem to be a connection between coeliac and gallstones.

I had a look on Coeliac UK but it has no mention of gallstones so I wondered if this is just a myth, or is an anecdotal thing only, perhaps peculiar to the US. I've had my gallbladder removed and I felt a distinct sinking of the heart at the thought that my gallstones may be yet more evidence of a real problem with gluten.

I'm going to have a look on PubMed but if anyone knows of any legitimate research showing a connection between coeliac and gallstones, or has any personal experience of this, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks.

E.T.A. Just discovered I've posted on this subject before, 3 years ago - how could I have forgotten?! But 'm going to leave this up because it does definitely seem to be a thing (coeliacs' gallbladders don't work as well - hence the formation of stones) and more of us should know about it (why isn't it on Coeliac UK for example?). Also, I'm hopeful that there may be some new info out there which someone will pass on!

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"Sometimes coeliac disease is triggered — or becomes active for the first time — after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection or severe emotional stress".

Mine was most definitely triggered by illness and surgery.

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Hi Karen, that's really interesting. Can you tell me where you got that quote from? I'm having a hard time getting my head around the idea of coeliac disease being triggered by anything, so any links or what have you could give me would be fab - thanks!

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hi again,

here's the link where i found the quote, under "Causes" 2nd paragraph, and the key word is "Triggered" not 'caused by'

mayoclinic.org/diseases-con...

Without going into my life story, i always thought something was going on but doctors always seem to give you a one-liner and send you on your way.

Following extensive abdominal surgery as a result of a relatively simple problem being overlooked for 6 months I then presented symptoms which got worse and worse until, in sheer desperation, i chose to go gluten free which was like someone flicking a switch. i felt better for the first time in 4 1/2 years.

It's taken about 18 months for my insides to stop hurting but of course i've never been officially diagnosed as having CD for fear of having to eat gluten again though i've now been identified as being hla dq2 positive which prediposes me to having CD.

I can only conclude that the protracted illness, stress, and major surgery "TRIGGERED" my acute gluten intolerance (possibly CD).

if anyone wants to know more about my experiences of going gluten free (and initially it wasn't just gluten i had to give up) please don't hesitate to ask.

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That's great, Karen thanks. That's the first reference I've had from a medical institution rather than alternative health site! So the triggering appears to be bona fide - who knew? You learn something every day!

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Wow this sounds very similar to my experience! I had my gallbladder removed when I was 14/15 and have now been diagnosed at 21 with CD. I do not know if I have always had CD which could be the cause of my gall stone or could be the result of the surgery

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I'd put the money on the CD, Moono; you've probably had that a lot longer than your diagnosis date and it probably trashed your gallbladder - you were VERY young to have had gallbladder issues which suggests an underlying problem like CD.

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well as coeliac is an auto immune problem anything that " stresses " the body and /or requires an immune response can trigger a predisposition to manifest itself

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You're absolutely right, Alchemilla. I always have a bit of a mental block with autoimmune, in that I always have a notion that it stems directly from an infection. But perhaps that's not inaccurate. For all we know, stresses on the body lower immunity and there is some unknown, unobserved infection which is being controlled out of sight but that, ultimately, triggers autoimmune. So to us, looking in, it looks like stress = autoimmune when actually it is stress = low-grade unseen infection = immune response triggered = autoimmune reaction. I'm guessing there is probably a stage missing in there, like long-standing stress triggers several unseen infections one after the other or some such before autoimmune is triggered!

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yes I agree with you that some long term hidden infection is implicated and then when we reach the end of the G.A.S. ( Im sure you know about Hans Selyes general adaptation syndrome ) our exhausted bodies collapse at the point of least resistence and as there seems to be a genetic component in auto immune disease then that is our weakest point so to speak. The trick is not to get to the third stage of the syndrome :)

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Argg, I definitely do not know about "Hans Selyes general adaptation syndrome" (or G.A.S.?) Two holes in my knowledge right there! I shall be looking them both up tonight!

P.S. There are definitely genetic components, probably right along the chain. I, for example, have IgA deficiency, like a lot of coeliacs (I'm not coeliac though), and it makes you more prone to gut infections and skin infections. I've never really had much problem with skin infections (except thrush when I was younger; couldn't get rid of the damn thing!) but I've been plagued with gut problems all my life. Without that little genetic tweak of low IgA I might have had the gut of an ox!

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People with Coeliac disease are born with a genetic predisposition to the disease, which is triggered by a major trauma. Gallbladder removal couldn't actually cause coeliac disease, but it can trigger it in someone who has the gene in there already.

I'd think the lady you talked to had the gene all along, and surgery triggered it for her. Or it just amplified symptoms that had been there all along.

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Hi Cooper. Yes, I know you need the right genes but I'm mystified as to how trauma could or would trigger the condition. Do you know of any legitimate sources, rather than just anecdotal, where they discuss this?

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The stress causes gut permeability / leaky gut, which is what lets the offending food particles into the blood stream. Trauma (such as organ removal) puts a lot of stress on the body.

chriskresser.com/how-stress...

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thankyou Cooper27, you've explained this so well in one simple paragraph

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Well that's one theory, Cooper, but certainly a sound one!

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ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articl...

From my reading over the years I have read many times that Gall Stones are linked to Low Thyroid. The Link above is just one of many research papers linking the two ... even Sub-Clinical Hypo can have an effect :-)

Lots of Hypos have Gluten sensitivity or are Coeliac - so possibly chicken or egg.

Sorry not able to answer your question - just adding more food for thought :-)

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Yes, chicken or egg - the curse of medical diagnoses!

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Looks like a connection, “A fascinating but overlooked link” (!)

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/281...

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Oh that is a whole can of worms, Penel. Thanks for that - it's only a shame there isn't actually any research or stats with it. And can I suggest that the main reason it is an "overlooked link" is because gallstones are primarily a female problem and it's the good old sexism in medicine issue. But it makes you wonder how many undiagnosed coeliacs have lost their gallbladders, because you can bet no-one checked them for the coeliac, just whipped out the offending organ. Likewise how about all the NCGS people who are probably likewise afflicted? Even more alarming is the thought that people like myself who have good old Cholecystectomy Syndrome (i.e. losing your gallbladder doesn't make the problems stop), actually STILL have coeliac or NCGS and it's just being dismissed as "You're one of the unlucky 10% for whom the operation doesn't work".

I've always thought that gallstones are a carbohydrate intolerance problem and many insulin resistance theorists list it as one of the metabolic diseases, but what if it is more specific than that and it's actually a wheat/gluten issue? Think how many of us might still have our gallbladders if people presenting with gallbladder disease were routinely tested for coeliac. That said, of course, if they'd tested me they probably wouldn't have found anything! Yeah, we need a better alternative to serum tests too...

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I think you can see the research if you click on the link on the top right of the paper (full text link).

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Damn, I'm dumb. Thanks a lot, Penel - that's invaluable. Without you I'd be blundering around like a headless worm.... (Believe it or not, I DO normally check for the full text link. Put it down to researching VERY late at night - 4 a.m. right now, for example. Proof, if proof were needed, that tiredness makes people stupid!)

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I have celiac disease and RLS. I follow a gluten free diet, the restless legs are awful keep me awake quite a lot. My mum suffers with them quiet bad to, and she has Rheumatoid Arthritis which is a auto immune disorder has is Celiac disease. But my dad also gets them and he his 72. And doesn’t have any health problems at all really. So I don’t know if there is a connection. Many people suffer with RLS and don’t have a auto immune disorder, disease. Emma

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Ah, you're confounding all my theories, Emsie! If RLS is an iron problem, which seems likely, it is possible all three of you have the same issue because you are related and it has a genetic component. You mum and dad aren't related, of course (I hope!) but it is possible that two strangers with the necessary genetic coding got together. The laws of coincidence alone makes that possible, but I believe there is also some kind of biological imperative which attracts like to like at a 'subliminal' level. Hey, I could theorise all day; what we really need is more research!

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So after, chronologically... surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, underactive thyroid, severe emotional stress, Coeliac disease, gall stones, RLS... what's next?

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Ooh, Pippers, you're textbook! You're like some wonderful graph laying out how illnesses create other illnesses. (I bet that cheers you!).

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Great... thanks a bunch Chancery; all the same there must be many thousands who'd swap with me and I feel for you all xx

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Ah, and you have a big heart too; still generous enough to wish others well in spite of that horrible graph!

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