HealthDay News — The prevalence of celiac disease is four times higher in children with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) compared with the general pediatric population, according to researchers.

These findings suggest that children with recurrent abdominal pain-related functional gastrointestinal disorders would benefit from being screened for celiac disease, Fernanda Cristofori, MD, from the University of Bari in Italy, and colleagues, reported in JAMA Pediatrics.

To determine the prevalence of celiac disease in patients with recurrent abdominal pain, the researchers prospectively analyzed data from 992 children (42.8% male; median age, 6.8 years) who were consecutively referred to a tertiary center by a primary care provider.

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Patients were characterized as having IBS (n=270), functional dyspepsia (n=201) or functional abdominal pain (n=311) using Rome III criteria. The researchers excluded 210 children because they had an organic disorder or some other functional gastrointestinal disorder not related to abdominal pain.

Patients presenting with IBS had a four-fold higher risk of having celiac disease, compared to children without IBS (odds ratio, 4.19; P< 0.001). Among the 782 children who underwent serologic testing, 15 had a diagnosis of celiac disease — 12 patients with IBS (4.4%), two patients with functional dyspepsia (1%), and one patient with functional abdominal pain (0.3%).

“Rome III classification of abdominal pain related functional gastrointestinal disorders might help to select children who deserve screening for celiac disease,” the researchers wrote.


  1. Cristofori F et al. AMA Pediatr. 2014; doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4984.