HOW IS CELIAC DISEASE TREATED?

How is Celiac Disease treated?

The only current treatment for Celiac Disease is a gluten-free diet.

For most people, following this diet will stop symptoms, heal existing intestinal damage, and prevent further damage. The small intestine usually heals in 3 to 6 months in children but may take several years in adults. A healed intestine means a person now has villi that can absorb nutrients from food into the bloodstream.

To stay well, people with Celiac Disease must avoid gluten for the rest of their lives. Eating even a small amount of gluten can damage the small intestine. The damage will occur in anyone with the disease, including people without noticeable symptoms.

The Gluten-free Diet

A gluten-free diet means not eating foods that contain wheat, rye, and barley. The foods and products made from these grains should also be avoided.

Despite these restrictions, people with Celiac Disease can eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods. They can use potato, rice, soy, amaranth, and quinoa, instead of wheat flour. They can buy gluten-free bread, pasta, and other products from stores that carry organic foods, or order products from special food companies. Gluten-free products are increasingly available from mainstream stores.

Plain meat, fish, rice, fruits, and vegetables do not contain gluten, so people with Celiac Disease can freely eat these foods. New evidence suggests that most people can safely eat small amounts of oats, as long as the oats are not contaminated with wheat gluten during processing.

The gluten-free diet requires a completely new approach to eating. Newly diagnosed people and their families may find support groups helpful as they learn to adjust to a new way of life. People with Celiac Disease must be cautious about what they buy for lunch at school or work, what they purchase at the grocery store, what they eat at restaurants or parties, and what they grab for a snack. Eating out can be a challenge. When in doubt about a menu item, a person with Celiac Disease should ask the waiter or chef about ingredients and preparation or if a gluten-free menu is available.

Gluten is also used in some medications. People with Celiac Disease should ask a pharmacist if prescribed medications contain wheat. Because gluten is sometimes used as an additive in unexpected products such as lipstick and play dough, reading product labels is important. If the ingredients are not listed on the label, the manufacturer should provide a list upon request. With practice, screening for gluten becomes second nature.


Information contained on this site should only be used with the advice of your physician or health care professional.