Celiac disease symptom profiles and their relationship to gluten-free diet adherence, mental health, and quality of life

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



BMC gastroenterology








Celiac Disease; Gluten-free diet; Latent profile analysis; Quality of life


BACKGROUND: A subgroup of adults with celiac disease experience persistent gastrointestinal and extraintestinal symptoms, which vary between individuals and the cause(s) for which are often unclear. METHODS: The present observational study sought to elucidate patterns of persistent symptoms and the relationship between those patterns and gluten-free diet adherence, psychiatric symptoms, and various aspects of quality of life (QOL) in an online sample of adults with celiac disease. U.S. adults with self-reported, biopsy-confirmed celiac disease (N = 523; Mage = 40.3 years; 88% women; 93.5% White) voluntarily completed questionnaires as part of the iCureCeliac® research network: (a) Celiac Symptoms Index (CSI) for physical symptoms and subjective health; (b) Celiac Dietary Adherence Test for gluten-free diet adherence; (c) PROMIS-29, SF-36, and Celiac Disease Quality of Life Survey for psychiatric symptoms and QOL. Symptom profiles were derived using latent profile analysis and profile differences were examined using auxiliary analyses. RESULTS: Latent profile analysis of CSI items determined a four-profile solution fit best. Profiles were characterized by: (1) little to no symptoms and excellent subjective health (37% of sample); (2) infrequent symptoms and good subjective health (33%); (3) occasional symptoms and fair to poor subjective health (24%); (4) frequent to constant symptoms and fair to poor subjective health (6%). Profiles 2 and 3 reported moderate overall symptomology though Profile 2 reported relatively greater extraintestinal symptoms and Profile 3 reported relatively greater gastrointestinal symptoms, physical pain, and worse subjective health. Profiles differed on anxiety and depression symptoms, limitations due to physical and emotional health, social functioning, and sleep, but not clinical characteristics, gluten-free diet adherence, or QOL. Despite Profile 3's moderate symptom burden and low subjective health as reported on the CSI, Profile 3 reported the lowest psychiatric symptoms and highest quality of life on standardized measures. CONCLUSIONS: Adults with celiac disease reported variable patterns of persistent symptoms, symptom severity, and subjective health. Lack of profile differences in gluten-free diet adherence suggests that adjunctive dietary or medical assessment and intervention may be warranted. Lower persistent symptom burden did not necessarily translate to better mental health and QOL, suggesting that behavioral intervention may be helpful even for those with lower celiac symptom burden.


Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences