A study recently published by The Journal of the American Medical Association has found further evidence for a link between celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The study, first posted online on April 21, 2014, titled “Increased Prevalence of Celiac Disease Among Pediatric Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome” examined nearly a thousand Italian children over a six year period. The researchers looked at children sent to a tertiary referral center by their primary care physician after presenting with abdominal pain. The median age of the children in the study was 6.8 years old.

The children were then diagnosed with either IBS, functional dyspepsia, functional abdominal pain, abdominal migraine, or they were excluded from further analysis if they were diagnosed with something not related to abdominal pain. Of the 992 children surveyed, 270 were diagnosed with IBS, 201 with functional dyspepsia, 311 with functional abdominal pain, and 210 exclusions. Further serological tests were done on the remaining 782 kids to establish the prevalence of celiac disease in the cohorts, with duodenal biopsies to confirm.

In total, 15 (1.9%) patients were found to have celiac disease. There were 12 cases of celiac disease found in the IBS group (4.4%), 2 cases in the functional dyspepsia group (1%) and 1 case in the functional abdominal pain group (0.3%). From the data, the authors estimate that children diagnosed with IBS after presenting with abdominal pain have a 4 times higher risk of having celiac disease when compared with their age group. The authors also suggest that it may be beneficial for pediatric patients with irritable bowel syndrome to get screened for celiac disease due to this significantly higher risk.

 The abstract for this study can be found here.