The Link Between Celiac Disease & Hair Loss

Celiac, also spelt coeliac, is an autoimmune disease that can cause extensive hair loss on the scalp, face, and body. Even though this condition only affects the small intestine, its effects can reverberate to other organs and tissues of the body – including hair follicles. 

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, this condition affects 1 in 100 people globally. So, it’s fairly common. And yet still, it remains largely undiagnosed or misdiagnosed (confused with irritable bowel syndrome or IBS).

As a result, you might not even know that your hair loss is due to celiac disease. Also, because of how this condition works, you may even experience different types of hair loss. However, with the right treatment, it may be possible to grow your hair back.   

Can Celiac Disease Cause Hair Loss? 

Due to malnutrition and its association with other autoimmune disorders, celiac disease can indirectly cause hair loss

Here, it’s important to understand that celiac disease – triggered by gluten found in grains, such as wheat, barley, triticale, malt, and its derivatives – damages the small intestine. 

And small intestine is where the absorption of the nutrients and minerals from the food takes place. It also carries out the maximum digestion of food. 

However, if you have celiac disease, your immune cells will damage the tiny finger-like projections in the stomach, known as “villi.” As a result, the nutrients from the food won’t be properly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Celiac disease

The result is a deficiency of different nutrients in the body. And it can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health, such as: 

  • Delayed puberty 
  • Weak and thin bones 
  • Itchy, bumpy rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nerve damage 
  • Seizures 
Celiac disease symptoms
Symptoms of celiac disease can greatly vary between patients

Additionally, the odds of getting more autoimmune diseases are also increased with autoimmune conditions. 

In fact, according to research published in Maedica, approximately 25% of patients with autoimmune diseases tend to develop additional autoimmune diseases.

There are many autoimmune conditions associated with celiac disease, including Sjogren’s syndrome, Type 1 diabetes, lupus, thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. And these can also cause hair loss. 

How Does Celiac Disease Cause Hair Loss? 

To get a better idea of the ways in which celiac disease causes hair loss, let’s take a closer look at each factor.

Nutritional Deficiency 

According to the clinical guidelines of the American College of Gastroenterology, celiac disease patients should be tested and treated for micronutrient deficiencies. 

That’s because they’re frequently deficient in: 

Moreover, you can also be deficient in other nutrients like zinc or copper. Of course, you need many of these nutrients to grow your hair normally. 

For instance, vitamin D helps in the production of the keratin protein in hair. It also helps ensure the hair growth cycle continues normally. So, in its absence, you’re going to lose hair. 

Here, it should also be noted that nutritional deficiencies can also “shock” the body and result in what’s known as telogen effluvium – a diffuse hair loss due to stress

Autoimmune Illness 

According to research, celiac disease can also increase the risk of another type of hair loss known as alopecia areata (also an autoimmune disease). 

The association between the two was first noted in 1995. In the study, published in the journal Gastroenterology, reported a link between celiac disease and alopecia areata in 3 patients. However, later researchers also found a similar association.

Alopecia areata hair loss

A case report published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 1999 offered an explanation for this. According to the researchers, it could be that abnormal immune function affects different organs independently or it could be a secondary effect of immune dysfunction. 

If it’s the latter, once the underlying cause of the immune problem is treated (gluten in the case of celiac disease), it may help you recover from other autoimmune issues (like alopecia areata). 

That may explain why a gluten-free diet helps some patients with celiac disease and alopecia areata. However, it doesn’t always work either. 

Other Autoimmune Conditions 

As mentioned earlier, some autoimmune conditions tend to occur together with celiac disease. 

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is one example of it. In this, the immune system targets the cells in the thyroid gland and causes hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormone). 

The abnormal thyroid hormone levels can end up triggering telogen effluvium here. Similarly, with other autoimmune disorders, you can experience other types of hair loss. 

Hair loss can also happen if you also have lupus, Sjögren’s, diabetes, Addison’s, etc. Even some of the medications for the treatment of autoimmune conditions can cause hair loss.   

What Does Celiac Hair Loss Look Like?

Your hair might become dull and brittle as a result of celiac disease. And depending on the type of hair loss you’re experiencing, it can be diffuse or in patches. 

It can also be very extensive. You might end up losing most of the hair on your scalp and body due to alopecia universalis, which is a type of alopecia areata. 

Is Hair Loss Due To Celiac Disease Reversible?

It is possible to reverse your hair loss caused by celiac disease. However, for that, you’ll have to eliminate gluten, which is the underlying problem. It’s for that reason that many people start a gluten-free diet. 

And there have been reports of celiac disease patients growing their hair back after starting a gluten-free diet. However, it can take about a year. 

How To Stop Hair Loss From Celiac Disease?

To stop hair loss from celiac disease, you need to remove gluten from your diet. Otherwise, your damaged intestines won’t be able to absorb the nutrients from food properly. It might even help with the alopecia areata associated with celiac disease. 

Also, to make up for the nutritional deficiencies, your doctor might also recommend some supplements. And that may also help stop the hair loss. 

But keep in mind that celiac disease cannot be cured, so you’ll have to continue a gluten-free diet for your life. And that can be particularly difficult since many baked foods contain gluten, such as:

  • Cake
  • Pizza
  • Doughnuts
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Cookies
  • Beer

Also, a product being “gluten-free” doesn’t necessarily make it good either. Research published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that commercial gluten-free food doesn’t offer “any nutritional advantages” and also tends to be more expensive. 

Instead, you should consider eating naturally gluten-free foods like fruits and vegetables. However, you should talk to a medical professional and a registered dietician to help you plan out your nutritional intake. 

Also, when buying products, you need to be careful about any gluten additives or cross-contamination from gluten products. These measures might help you stop your hair loss and grow it back again. 


Celiac is a chronic and serious autoimmune disease that can cause many problems. One of them, however, is hair loss. 

While the disease doesn’t directly affect hair follicles, complex processes involved can end up affecting the hair follicles indirectly. And that results in diffuse or patchy alopecia. 

If you have any symptoms of this condition or are losing your hair abnormally, make sure to get in touch with a board-certified medical professional. 

Reviewed and Approved by Trichologist Yaprak Yazan


How long after going gluten-free will my hair stop falling out?

It can depend on the kind of hair loss you’re experiencing, but it may take months.

Is hair loss a symptom of celiac disease?

Hair loss can be a symptom of celiac disease since it can cause nutritional deficiency and is also associated with other autoimmune conditions.

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