Celiac Symptoms in Babies

Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that causes harsh immune reactions to the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Infants with celiac disease may exhibit digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea or vomiting, failure to thrive and emotional irritability. Early diagnosis is key toward ensuring your child’s healthy growth and development. For best results, seek guidance from a doctor who specializes in digestive disorders.

Digestive Abnormalities

Common digestive symptoms in infants with celiac disease include diarrhea, constipation and vomiting. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), digestive symptoms of the disease are far more prevalent in infants and children than in adults. Diarrhea may become chronic, lasting more than two days, often between bouts of constipation. Infants may also produce foul-smelling, “fatty,” or pale stool. Since gluten is the trigger for symptoms of celiac disease, symptoms often increase or exacerbate once cereal or other foods containing gluten are added to the infant’s diet.

Failure to Thrive

Failure to thrive, or abnormally reduced weight and physical development compared to healthy infants of similar age, commonly occurs in babies with celiac disease. Infants who lose excessive nutrient through diarrhea, vomiting or malabsorption of nutrients are most prone to developmental delays. According to the NDDIC, failure to thrive and loss of vital nutrients during infancy can lead to short stature, delayed puberty, and dental enamel defects of permanent teeth later in life. Celiac disease tends to run in families. If you or other family members have the disorder, your doctor may recommend testing regardless of symptoms as a safety measure, though in some cases, family history of celiac disease remains unknown. If your child exhibits failure to thrive and you suspect celiac disease as the culprit, seek guidance and testing from your doctor.


Since infants with celiac disease likely endure pain or discomfort after ingesting gluten, irritability and excessive crying may occur. Once the disease is diagnosed and treated, generally through omitting gluten completely from your baby’s diet, mood disturbances and other symptoms reduce. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of celiac disease replicate those of other digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and parasite infections. Keep in mind that testing for celiac disease may require eliminating other potential illnesses and conditions as well. Once properly managed, people with celiac disease can go on to live full, healthy lives.

About this Author

August J. McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as “Healthy Aging,” “CitySmart,” “IAmThatGirl” and “ULM.” She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit – a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.