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Liver Disease


What is the Liver?
The liver is one of the largest and most important organs in the body. It stores vitamins, sugars, fats, and other nutrients from the food. It builds chemicals that the body needs to stay healthy, breaks down harmful substances like alcohol and other toxic chemicals, and removes waste products from the blood.

What is Liver Disease?
The term liver disease applies to many diseases and disorders that cause the liver to function improperly or stop functioning. Abnormal results of liver function tests often suggest liver disease.

  • Primary biliary cirrhosis is an inflammation of the bile ducts of the liver resulting in narrowing and obstruction. The cause of inflamed bile ducts within the liver in this condition is not known. The disease more commonly affects middle-aged women. The onset of symptoms is gradual, with fatigue and itching skin as the most common first symptom. Long-standing bile obstruction is believed to lead to liver cirrhosis. The disease may be associated with autoimmune disorders. Symptoms can include: Itching, jaundice, enlarged liver, abdominal pain, fatty deposits under the skin, soft yellow spots on the eyelid and fatty stools.
  • Autoimmune hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by immune cells that mistake the liver's normal cells as harmful invaders. A person with autoimmune hepatitis has autoantibodies circulating in the bloodstream that cause the immune system to attack the liver. Autoimmune hepatitis sometimes occurs in relatives of people with autoimmune diseases, suggesting a genetic cause. This disease is most common in young girls and women. Symptoms can include: dark urine, loss of appetite, fatigue, malaise, abdominal distention, generalized itching, pale or clay-colored stools, nausea and vomiting.

Other Liver Diseases Associated with Celiac Disease

  • Reactive hepatitis - Irritation of the liver that sometimes causes permanent damage.
  • Autoimmune liver disorders
  • Autoimmune (sclerosing) cholangitis - An inflammation of the bile ducts of the liver without a specified cause.
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease - A range of conditions involving the liver that affects people who drink little or no alcohol and causes a build-up of excess fat in liver cells.
  • Acute liver failure - Liver failure is severe deterioration of liver function
  • Cryptogenic cirrhosis - Cirrhosis due to unidentified causes and a common reason for liver transplantation. Cirrhosis is a chronic problem that makes it hard for the liver to remove toxins from the body.
  • Regenerative nodular hyperplasia - A rare disorder that is often associated with connective tissue disorders; cancer of the blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes; or drugs and is a cause of non-cirrhotic portal hypertension.
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma - A primary cancer of the liver.

Liver Disease and Celiac Disease
There is growing evidence that a many liver injuries in children and adults may be related to CD, the disease-causing mechanism of liver damage in celiac patients is poorly understood. The different types of liver disease described may represent a spectrum of a same disorder where individual factors, such as genetic predisposition, early exposure and duration of exposure to gluten may influence the reversibility of liver damage.

Celiac disease has been found in:

  • 6.4% of patients with autoimmune hepatitis
  • 5-10% of patients with chronically abnormal liver tests and no obvious cause of liver disease.
  • 6-8% of patients with autoimmune liver diseases
  • Research has shown a 3% prevalence of primary biliary cirrhosis in people with celiac disease. In single cases, celiac disease has also been found to be associated with autoimmune cholangitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis.

Treatment with a gluten-free diet in patients with both celiac disease and liver disease can lead to prevention of hepatic failure even in severe cases where liver transplantation is being considered.


  • American Liver Foundation
  • Coeliac UK
  • Duggan, J. M. et al. (2005). Systematic review: the liver in coeliac disease. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 21 (5), 515–518.
  • Iacono, O Lo et al. (2005). Anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies in patients with abnormal liver tests: is it always coeliac disease? American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2472-7.
  • Lawson, J. West, G. P. Aithal, R. F. A. Logan (2005). Autoimmune cholestatic liver disease in people with coeliac disease: a population-based study of their association. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 21 (4), 401–405.
  • Maggiore, Giuseppe et al. (2006). Liver Involvement in Celiac Disease. Indian Journal of Pediatrics, Vol 73.
  • Medline Plus

Do you or a family member suffer from this disease? You may have celiac disease, find ouy now, take our celiac disease symptoms checklist.


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