Celiac disease in patients with severe liver disease: gluten-free diet may reverse hepatic failure

Gastroenterology. 2002 Apr;122(4):881-8. doi: 10.1053/gast.2002.32416.


Background & aims: Mild liver abnormalities are common in patients with celiac disease and usually resolve with a gluten-free diet. We investigated the occurrence of celiac disease in patients with severe liver failure.

Methods: Four patients with untreated celiac disease and severe liver disease are described. Further, the occurrence of celiac disease was studied in 185 adults with previous liver transplantation using serum immunoglobulin A endomysial and tissue transglutaminase antibodies in screening.

Results: Of the 4 patients with severe liver disease and celiac disease, 1 had congenital liver fibrosis, 1 had massive hepatic steatosis, and 2 had progressive hepatitis without apparent origin. Three were even remitted for consideration of liver transplantation. Hepatic dysfunction reversed in all cases when a gluten-free diet was adopted. In the transplantation group, 8 patients (4.3%) had celiac disease. Six cases were detected before the operation: 3 had primary biliary cirrhosis, 1 had autoimmune hepatitis, 1 had primary sclerosing cholangitis, and 1 had congenital liver fibrosis. Only 1 patient had maintained a long-term strict gluten-free diet. Screening found 2 cases of celiac disease, 1 with autoimmune hepatitis and 1 with secondary sclerosing cholangitis.

Conclusions: The possible presence of celiac disease should be investigated in patients with severe liver disease. Dietary treatment may prevent progression to hepatic failure, even in cases in which liver transplantation is considered.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy*
  • Celiac Disease / epidemiology*
  • Celiac Disease / genetics
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Glutens / adverse effects
  • HLA-DQ Antigens / genetics
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune / diet therapy
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune / genetics
  • Humans
  • Liver Failure / diet therapy*
  • Liver Failure / epidemiology*
  • Liver Failure / genetics
  • Liver Transplantation / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • HLA-DQ Antigens
  • HLA-DQ2 antigen
  • HLA-DQ8 antigen
  • Glutens