Q. I suffered from chronic angular cheilitis for years, along with digestive problems. Doctor after doctor dismissed any relationship between the two. I finally saw a nutritionist who identified the problem as B vitamin malabsorption.

I started taking B vitamins sublingually (under the tongue), so they would be absorbed without relying on the GI tract. I have not had any cheilitis for more than a year and a half. She also recommended a gluten-free diet that has stopped my gastric symptoms. After 20 years of bloating, gas and abdominal pain and countless doctors, one nutritionist knew the answers.

A. It rather sounds as though your nutritionist is treating you for celiac disease. In this autoimmune condition, the body reacts to gluten from wheat, barley or rye and attacks the small intestine. The resulting problems with absorption of nutrients can cause a wide range of problems, including those painful cracks at the corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis).

Doctors were once taught that celiac disease was an extremely rare disorder. We now know that it is far more common than they thought, but the diagnosis is still missed more often than it should be. You can learn more about dealing with celiac disease and other frequently missed diagnoses in our book, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

You may also be interested in learning more about the dangerous consequences of celiac disease, including lymphoma and dementia. We did a one-hour interview with Peter H. R. Green, MD, Director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and Professor of Clinical Medicine in the College of Physicians and Surgeons. He shared the latest research on celiac disease in 2012.

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  1. Ellen

    Celiac disease is not the only condition in which gluten causes gut problems, then a host of potential other problems, depending on where our system is vulnerable. I recently saw most of the interviews on The Gluten Summit by a collection of doctors, nutritionists and others who work in the real of healing. Even non-celiac gluten sensitivity can lead to shortened life (one 20-year study cited) and a host of secondary symptoms that range from auto-immune other diseases to depression and autism.
    One doctor stated that gluten is not fully digestible by any human. Especially the wheat we have today is so hybridized that it genetically is a different “food” that wheat in the early Biblical times.
    I am one who was gluten sensitive, not celiac (was tested), and, on cleaning up my diet, saw frequent headaches, gut problems, fatigue, brain fog, insomnia and bipolar resolve.

  2. Donnie

    I suffered with mouth sores and GI problems from the time I was a small child. Along with many other symptoms. The doctors kept telling me to take more B-complex vitamins, and minerals. Finally, I was diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease. Years later, it was discovered that I also had Celiac, and I went on a totally gluten free diet. I do have some permanent damage from the undiagnosed conditions, but I improved in many areas. I still have to take the extra supplements. It is a shame, that doctors don’t check for Celiac, especially when their patients have all the obvious classic symptoms, like I did.

  3. DFW

    I also suffered from angular cheilitis which cleared up after I started taking a B vitamin supplement for another condition. I am not sure whether it was the vitamins, or the fact that I also started eating meat again at about the same time, but I am glad it’s gone.

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