As an immune disease itself, the link between celiac disease and other immune conditions, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis and thyroid disorders is well-known. However, what researchers are becoming increasingly aware is that the impact of this condition extends much wider than previously thought.
One of these newly uncovered associations refers to cardiovascular diseases. Many studies have identified an increased risk of morbidity and mortality due to a higher incidence of heart problems in celiac disease patients. Worryingly, this risk – although slightly attenuated – is still evident several years after starting a gluten-free diet. The list of conditions includes irregular and fast heartbeat, diseases affecting the heart muscle, as well as heart attacks and heart failure.
Not only they’re more frequent than in the general population, but cardiovascular conditions can be extremely dangerous for celiac disease patients. This can be due to nutritional deficiencies, of which the most common in celiac disease patients – iron deficiency – is also the most worrisome. Studies have shown that suffering from anemia and iron deficiency is associated with more severe symptoms and higher mortality rates in patients with heart failure.
In addition, even if following a balanced diet, celiac disease is invariably associated with an increased inflammation and intestinal permeability. This “open door” can be a gateway for many dangerous bacteria to access the rest of the body, including the heart, potentially exacerbating what could otherwise be a mild condition.