You probably associate Celiac disease—the autoimmune disorder where gluten (the protein in wheat, rye, and barley) damages the villi (small finger-link projections that line the small intestine)—with gastrointestinal awfulness like diarrhea and stomach pain. But brace yourself—there are actually close to 300 symptoms that Celiac can set off, according to The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, and they can run the gamut from psychological to physical to neurological. “Some patients have strange symptoms, like early menopause or thinning hair, but don’t associate them with celiac disease,” says Sonia Kupfer, MD, assistant professor and member of the Celiac Disease Center.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, the condition may affect 1 in 100 people, so it’s important to ID the hidden—and bizarre—signs that you may be suffering. Even if these symptoms sound familiar though, you shouldn’t ditch gluten completely on your own and see if you feel better. Make an appointment with your doctor and ask about getting the simple blood test that detects the disease. (If you stop eating gluten before you take the test, the results won’t be as accurate).
Here, five common—but strange—signs you might have Celiac:
1. You’re anemic
If a blood test has revealed your body is running low on iron—the mineral that helps make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that ferries oxygen around the body—Celiac may be the cause, since iron gets absorbed in the part of the small intestine damaged by the disease. “Women often think it’s their period that’s causing the iron deficiency, but that may not always be the case,” says Kupfer. Doctors don’t always make the connection between Celiac and more vague symptoms like anemia, but one study found that one-third of patients diagnosed were anemic. If you’re experiencing symptoms of anemia, like fatigue and weakness, ask your doctor about running an iron level test, and if yours turn out to be abnormally low, consider being tested for Celiac.