How Is Celiac Disease Treated?

No treatment can cure celiac disease. However, you can effectively manage celiac disease through changing your diet. Once gluten is removed from your diet, inflammation in your small intestine will begin to resolve, usually within a few weeks. Even a small amount of gluten is enough to cause symptoms and complications, which means all foods or food ingredients made from many grains must be avoided.

Because a gluten-free diet needs to be strictly followed, you may wish to consult a registered dietitian who is experienced in instructing patients regarding gluten-free diets. Foods that contain gluten include any type of wheat (including farina, graham flour, semolina, and durum), barley, rye, bulgur, Kamut, kasha, matzo meal, spelt, and triticale. Amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa are gluten-free as grown, but they may be contaminated by other grains during harvesting and processing, so be sure that the label says gluten-free or manufactured in a gluten-free facility. Cross-contamination may also occur if gluten-free products are prepared in unwashed bowls previously containing gluten products. Oats may not be harmful for most people with celiac disease, but oat products are frequently contaminated with wheat, so it is best to avoid oats as well.

Most commercially available baked goods contain gluten and should be strictly avoided unless they are labeled as gluten-free. Flours that are usually safest include rice, soy, corn, and potato. If your nutritional deficiencies are severe, you may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements. Once a gluten-free diet is started, complete healing of the intestine may take several months in younger people and 2–3 years in older people. Most people with celiac disease who follow a gluten-free diet have a complete recovery. Rarely, people with severely damaged small intestines do improve with a gluten-free diet. When diet is not effective, treatment often includes medications to help control intestinal inflammation and other conditions resulting from malabsorption.