My involvement with the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia has allowed me to speak to many people who have been diagnosed with celiac and the symptoms which led to their diagnosis. The stories are remarkable. One young man was diagnosed with a learning disability and went to a facility that did a thorough physical evaluation--including testing for celiac. It is hard to believe that a disease with origins in the gut can affect the brain and learning. But, when you have celiac and you eat gluten, you don't absorb fat. In recent years, dietary fats have been lumped together and viewed as unhealthy. But certain fats (omega 3's found in fish oil) are necessary for proper brain development and structure.
Correcting these deficiencies of omega 3's can often lead to an improvement in learning. The child of a friend of mine who has celiac went from a school for learning disabled children to honor role at a mainstream school after taking fish oil. The gluten free diet is often not enough to heal the complications of celiac. Correcting the nutritional deficiencies is also a critical part of healing.
Other fats, such as saturated fats are necessary building blocks of the hormones in our body. When you have celiac and aren't absorbing these vitally important fats, many systems can be affected and learning problems, infertility and depression can all develop. And cholesterol is also critical for optimal brain development and function as described in Learning, Your Memory and Cholesterol.
Because the prescription for celiac disease is dietary and the symptoms of eating gluten are not life threatening, sometimes it is viewed as not that serious. But many organs can be affected by the lack of vitamins, minerals and fats. In addition, celiac is an autoimmune disease and your risks of getting a second autoimmune disease are higher if you have untreated celiac.
I believe genetic and antibody testing should be done in any child who has symptoms of celiac with a learning or developmental problem.
In our family, many family members had severe gut issues, physical issues and neurological problems until a GI doctor tried to rule out celiac by doing a gene test and stumbled upon two genes for celiac when my son had all the classic symptoms of celiac disease. I am forever grateful for the doctor who did the genetics to "rule out" celiac--and couldn't.