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Can Gluten Intolerance Cause Damage to Your Heart?

By Lillian Downey ; Updated July 18, 2017

Gluten intolerance causes a range of symptoms, from digestive upset to loss of mental clarity to skin rashes. The most severe form of this condition is known as celiac disease.The condition manifests itself differently in every person who has it, and some people live a long time with no symptoms. If gluten intolerance goes undiagnosed, it can wreak havoc on your body -- including your heart. Luckily, a gluten-free diet can stop and even reverse much of the damage gluten causes.

Allergic Reactions

Anaphylaxis is the most severe type of gluten reaction, and can be fatal. If you experience anaphylaxis after eating gluten, you may feel chest pains and tightness, as well as an abnormally fast heartbeat, according to Minor allergic reactions can usually be treated with medication, but if an allergic reaction is severe enough or if the heart undergoes too much stress, the allergic reaction can cause irreversible heart damage, and can starve your heart and other major organs of oxygen.

Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

Many people with gluten allergies experience intestinal damage. Since the body can't digest the proteins in gluten, the immune system attacks what it perceives to be a toxin. The small intestine usually suffers the most damage, and as a result, can't adequately absorb vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. Severe nutritional deficiencies affect the way the heart functions and can cause it to work harder or less efficiently. The nutritional deficiencies and the additional workload can cause heart damage and heart failure.


The Celiac Sprue Association points out that gluten intolerance often causes edema, or swelling. When you carry extra fluid in your body, your heart has to work harder than normal. Extra fluid can increase blood pressure and decrease circulation. If too much fluid builds up in your body and your heart isn't able to compensate, it's known as congestive heart failure.

Related Complications

People with gluten intolerance have a higher risk of Type 1 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, having diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and makes you more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. You're also more likely to develop thyroid function problems, which can cause heart palpitations and high blood pressure.

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