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  • Dr. Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.
    Dr. Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

    Gall Bladder Disease and Celiac Disease - By Ronald Hoggan

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    The following piece was written by Ronald Hoggan who is a teacher at Queen Elizabeth High School in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

    Gall bladder disease or malfunction is often associated with celiac disease. It can cause pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, just at the lowest rib on the right side. In one study of 1300 celiacs in Canada, 9% indicated that gall stones were the earliest presentation, sometimes followed by many years prior to correct diagnosis of their celiac disease. In another report, Dr. Kozlowska indicated that 13 of the 41 newly diagnosed celiacs she investigated were suffering from atresia, a condition which is a partial or complete blockage of the bile duct.

    CCK (cholecystokinin) is the hormone responsible for gall bladder contraction. The bulk of this hormone is produced in the duodenum.

    Active celiac disease would be likely, then, to cause a reduction or a cessation of duodenal production of CCK. A radiologist in Hungary is currently researching this problem. In private correspondence, one gastroenterologist reports having found (accidentally) a gallstone in a 12 year old girl who had active celiac disease.

    The 30% incidence of atresia among celiac children, as reported by Dr. Kozlowska, would suggest an even higher number among adults with active celiac disease. Given the low level of clinical suspicion for celiac disease in North America, it would not be at all surprising if a large portion of patients with gall bladder disease were suffering from occult celiac disease. Future research may reveal that gall stones and atresia are only symptoms of celiac disease.

    I did a Medline search on cck and celiac disease. I got 65 hits. Researchers repeatedly identified a connection between celiac disease and gall bladder malfunction with such comments as: Thus the already impaired fat absorption in celiac sprue is magnified by the lack of bile delivery.....; and We conclude that there is a reversible defect of gallbladder emptying and cholecystokinin release in celiac disease. and Cholecystokinin (cck) release and gall bladder emptying in response to a fatty meal are completely abolished in celiac disease. and the abnormally decreased gallbladder contraction in celiac patients is the result of endogenous cck secretion and not a lack of end-organ responsiveness to cck.

    There just isnt much ambiguity there. If youve got celiac disease, you have gall bladder malfunction, of the sort that may well develop into atresia and gallstones.

    Upon receiving a diagnosis of gall bladder disease, whether gall stones or atresia, one might be wise to request a blood test for celiac disease. The anti-endomysial antibody test is currently the most reliable and available test.

    Now, given the low level of clinical suspicion for celiac disease, I anticipate the suggestion that absent gall bladder emptying, atresia, and gall stones might occur in the absence of celiac disease. I did another Medline search, and I cant find a single study that has tested atresia patients or gallstone patients for celiac disease. My answer to the suggestion that gall bladder disease may occur in the absence of celiac disease is that there is no evidence to support such a contention. Considerable evidence exists, however, which points to celiac disease as a likely cause of gall bladder malfunction, atresia, or stones. As for childhood gallstones, there appears to be only one answer.... it is associated with celiac disease.

    A view that incorporates the association of gall bladder disease, and celiac disease, but does not preclude the above, has been expressed by Dr. Joseph Murray, of the University of Iowa, who is a gastroenterologist specializing in treating celiac disease. He believes there are several triggers that can activate Celiac disease in genetically susceptible people. One of them is: Surgery, particularly GI (gall bladder, etc.) In any case, the connection between celiac disease and gall bladder disease is well known.


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    I had gallbladder malfunction and atresia starting at age 14 which was misdiagnosed for 10 years. Finally doctors found it and removed my gallbladder; immediately after surgery I began having malabsorption problems and am now being tested for Celiac. Thanks so much for all your research that links celiac and gall bladder malfunction.

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    A year & 1/2 ago I had my gallbladder removed in an emergency operation; I was also told at the time that my liver enzymes were abnormally high. I also had anemia for ten years; finally had a hysterectomy but the anemia continued. Now I have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I am connecting the dots now. This article helped.

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    Just got diagnosed with sludge & silt but having attacks of pain reflux nausea dehydration for years usually after eating inappropriately (generally healthy - fit - slim to only slightly overweight but occasional junk food binger during hormonal times) Tested for Celiac a few years ago with not enough positive results for diagnosis - now they want my gall bladder out - seems like maybe a new celiac test is due? Trying to diet out of surgery (have lost 30 lbs. eating boring foods.

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    Have been diagnosed with celiac only through cutting out the gluten from the diet. I had cut it out in a desperate attempt to find out what was wrong all the years and could then not tolerate it for the 4-6 weeks for the blood test to prove positive. Have been tested prior to the celiac diagnosis for gallbladder disease but the scan did not prove any disease although all symptoms suggest this. I will now go back to my GP and suggest the link and ask for more tests. I live in London, UK and although my GP is very good they are still very unaware of the problems with celiac.

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    I have been gluten free for 4 years. I have been having symptoms for the past week that I have been told are similar to gall stones. I decided to check to see if there was a link to celiac. I am not sure why I would have the issue 4 years after going gluten free. This article was so helpful. I am going to make an appointment with my doctor this week.

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    I had my gallbladder removed almost two years ago when the doctor said that mine was non-working. The test showed it at 0% functionality. Now a few weeks ago after dealing with some more pain and constant diarrhea, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease with from intestinal biopsies. I'm convinced uncontrolled Celiac Disease played a large role in damaging my gallbladder.

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    I was diagnosed with a non-functioning gallbladder with no stones and had it removed this past January. I went to Cleveland Clinic and found out I have peripheral neuropathy and celiac disease. NOW I finally understand why my gallbladder failed with no stones! Thanks SO much!

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    I found out am celiac 4 years ago, and am having worsening gallbladder problems this past year, I have 1 stone, and it is functioning below normal. My question is, will I feel better having the gallbladder out? My GI doc says not everyone feels better...so I am not sure what to do. I'd like to find out from other celiacs if they improved after removal or not? I wonder if the percentage of people who do not feel better after removal are celiacs who do not know it and are still eating gluten???

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    I found out am celiac 4 years ago, and am having worsening gallbladder problems this past year, I have 1 stone, and it is functioning below normal. My question is, will I feel better having the gallbladder out? My GI doc says not everyone feels better...so I am not sure what to do. I'd like to find out from other celiacs if they improved after removal or not? I wonder if the percentage of people who do not feel better after removal are celiacs who do not know it and are still eating gluten???

    Just thought I would reply to Natascha because I had my gallbladder out about 9 years ago and still had problems. I found out about a year ago that I have celiac disease, elevated liver enzymes (ALT and AST's) and still even now following a low fat diet and have the gallbladder disease without the gallbladder. I don't know if things will improve down the road, but I stay away from gluten, dairy, and barely any fat.

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  • About Me

    As co-author of "Dangerous Grains" and "Cereal Killers", the study of the impact of gluten continues to be a driving passion in my life. I am fascinated by the way that gluten induces illness and impedes learning while it alters mood, behavior, and a host of other facets of our existence. Sure, the impact of gluten on health is an important issue, but that is only the most obvious area of impact. Mood disturbances, learning disabilities, and the loss of quality of life due to psychiatric and neurological illness are even more tragic than the plethora of physical ailments that are caused or worsened by gluten. The further I go down this rabbit hole, the more I realize that grains are a good food for ruminants - not people. I am a retired school teacher. Over the last decade, I have done some college and university level teaching, but the bulk of my teaching career was spent working with high school students. My Web page is: www.DangerousGrains.com

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