Functional Abdominal Pain Disorders and Constipation in Children on Gluten-Free Diet

Published:September 02, 2020DOI:

      Background & Aims

      We studied the prevalence of functional abdominal pain disorders (FAPDs) and functional constipation (FC) in a large prospective cohort of children with celiac disease on a strict gluten-free diet (GFD).


      We performed a prospective cohort study, from 2016 through 2018, in a tertiary care center in Italy, of 417 patients (37% male; mean age, 13.7 y) with a diagnosis of celiac disease (European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology, and Nutrition criteria) who had been on a strict GFD for more than 1 year and had negative results from serologic tests after being on the GFD. Parents and children (>10 y) were asked to fill in a questionnaire on pediatric gastrointestinal symptoms, according to Rome IV criteria. Patients’ closest siblings (or cousins) who had negative results from serologic test for celiac disease were used as controls (n = 373; 39% male; mean age, 13.5 y).


      We found a higher prevalence of FAPDs among patients with celiac disease (11.5%) than controls (6.7%) (P < .05); the relative risk (RR) was 1.8 (95% CI, 1.1–3.0). Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and FC defined by the Rome IV criteria were more prevalent in patients with celiac disease (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); the RR for IBS was 2.3 (95% CI, 1.1–4.6) and the RR for functional constipation was 2.1 (95% CI, 1.4–3.2). We found no differences in the prevalence of other subtypes of FAPDs. A logistic regression showed that 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.


      Celiac disease is associated with an increased risk of IBS and FC. Strategies are needed to manage IBS and FC in patients with celiac disease.


      Abbreviations used in this paper:

      CD (celiac disease), EMA (endomysial antibodies), ESPGHAN (European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology, and Nutrition), FAPD (functional abdominal pain disorder), FC (functional constipation), FGID (functional gastrointestinal disorder), GFD (gluten-free diet), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), RR (relative risk), TTG (transglutaminase)
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