Celiac Disease Treatment – 2020 Updated

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon, MD

celiac disease treatment

Most people do not know what celiac disease is and how it is treated, not to mention what to look for in terms of celiac disease symptoms. People spend their typical day eating a bowl of cereal in the morning, maybe a sandwich for lunch, or a piece of cake during the day, and then they all forget what goes on inside them.

Celiac disease is not a very common condition, but there is a  chance that you will know someone affected by this condition.

In this article, we’re going to look at celiac disease treatment, what is celiac disease, what you should do if nothing has been done to treat celiac disease, what symptoms you should watch out for to know if you have it, and finally what you can do to avoid it in the first place.

This may help you and patients with celiac disease because, if not diagnosed early, can lead to many complications later in life.

What Is Celiac Disease

Celiac disease[1], also known as gluten sprue, or non-tropical sprue and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. It is an autoimmune disorder that occurs in genetically sensitive people eating foods that contain gluten.

Eating gluten protein, including foods made with wheat, rye, barley, and oats,t damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food.

The number of people with celiac disease has been underestimated but is now considered to be one of the most common genetic disorders. Celiac disease’s prevalence reported 0.5 to 1%[2] in the general population. 

Genetics[3] also plays an important role in a person with celiac disease. People with first-degree relatives have a risk of 1 in 10. The incidence of celiac disease increases to 3.4% among parents, 17.6% among sisters, and 10.8% with your brother. 

According to the Celiac disease foundation[4], approximately 1 in 100 people worldwide suffers from it. Almost two and a half million Americans remain undiagnosed and at risk for long-term health complications.

Symptoms Of Celiac Disease 

Gluten intolerance is mostly mistaken as a celiac disease because of shared symptoms. Celiac symptoms may happen at any age. People with celiac disease may sometimes not get any symptoms at all, but they may still test positive for celiac disease in blood tests.

Celiac disease can also manifest both gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal symptoms. Here are some of the common symptoms for both children and adult listed below:

Gastrointestinal Symptoms


One of the first symptoms patients will get with celiac disease is soft, watery stools. About 50% of people[5] with celiac disease do not have diarrhea every day at the time of diagnosis.

One study showed that 79%[6] of people with celiac disease are likely to pass loose, liquid stools before receiving treatment.

Chronic diarrhea leads to malabsorption, which is a condition where the body is unable to absorb nutrients from food.


Bloating connects to flatulence, which causes the intestine to swell up. Sometimes they may feel like their stomachs are full and tight. 

One study[7] of 1,032 adults with this condition found that 73% experienced bloating. 

Dermatitis herpetiformis

It is described as an itchy and chronic skin rash that often can be found on the knees, elbows, back, buttocks, and the back of the neck.

About 17%[8] of people with celiac disease have this rash and it is one of the characteristic symptoms that lead to a diagnosis. It can also develop after diagnosis as a sign of poor treatment adherence.

Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Celiac disease can interfere with the absorption of nutrients and lead to iron deficiency anemia, a condition causes a reduction in red blood cells in the body.

A study[9] of 84 people with iron deficiency anemia of unknown origin found that 7% suffered from celiac disease. A gluten-free diet can also affect and increased serum iron levels.

Celiac Disease Diagnosis

The diagnosis of celiac disease is becoming increasingly common. Today, more and more people are getting sick from exposure to gluten-containing foods. A recent[10] study showed that five times more patients suffer this condition than in the 1950s.

Another study[11] reported that since 1974, the incidence of celiac disease has doubled every 15 years. Currently, it is estimated that one in 133 Americans[12] suffers from this condition.

Diagnosis is important as well as medical advice. Your doctor will examine you and ask for information about your signs and symptoms and may ask you to have tests.

Blood tests[13] may detect:

  • Antigliadin antibodies
  • Endomysial antibodies
  • Anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies


A biopsy[14] of the small intestine is considered the most accurate test of celiac disease. Doctors use endoscopies to take samples of the intestinal lining. Usually, several samples are taken to improve diagnostic accuracy.

People who do not have celiac disease or a diagnosed gluten intolerance should seek medical advice if they are thinking of a gluten-free diet.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)[15], there is no current evidence that the general public should follow a gluten-free diet to lose weight or improve their health.

celiac disease treatment

Treatment For Celiac Disease

So far, there is no known medicine for the treatment of celiac disease. The only form of treatment for celiac disease treatment in adults is following a gluten-free diet.

Removing gluten-free foods will help prevent inflammation and further damage to the small intestine. This can be difficult since many foods contain even small amounts of gluten and sometimes hide especially in processed foods. 

A qualified dietitian can help you follow a gluten-free diet.

There are several ways to treat celiac disease in adults. Most of these include home remedies, diet, nutritional intake, medication, and therapies.

Gluten-free diet

The most effective way to manage the symptoms of celiac disease is to have a gluten free diet[16]. Following a gluten-free diet will give your small intestine time to heal and can help prevent future inflammation.

You will need to avoid gluten foods that contain wheat and wheat flour. Besides wheat, food products that contain gluten include: Graham flour Soy sauce Barley Malt Bulgur, Durum, Farina, Malt, Rye, Semolina, Spelt (a form of wheat), Triticalem, rice soy.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

If the doctor detects any deficiencies, he or she will prescribe supplements that include calcium, iron, vitamin D, K and B12, zinc, etc. These supplements must be gluten-free and must be given by injection as the pills can cause further damage to the digestive tract.


Although there is no medicine available to cure celiac disease, you can take anti-inflammatory drugs to help control intestinal inflammation, including steroids that ease even severe symptoms of celiac disease as your small intestines recover.

Fish Oil

Fish oil[17] works on the gut lining, preventing inflammation of the small intestine. Therefore, it can prevent the painful exacerbation of celiac disease symptoms if you accidentally eat food containing gluten.

Herbal Treatments

Other home remedies that can help with celiac disease include a variety of herb treatments.  Extracts of golden root and olive leaves[18] are ideal for autoimmune diseases, as they not only protect the immune system from diseases but also help regulate them. You may take them regularly, especially if you are not on a gluten-free diet, they can help reduce the severity of celiac disease symptoms.

Papain Supplements

With all the medical technology available, there is a supplement[19] that can help enzymes in the small intestine to correctly breakdown gluten. So instead of the gluten is detrimental by the immune system, the body can function normally.

However, like other treatments for celiac disease, it does not cure the disease, it only relieves symptoms.


Untreated celiac disease can lead to many unwanted side effects, including digestive problems, malnutrition, weight loss, and fatigue. It is a serious condition in which the immune system attacks the small intestine in response to gluten intake. Understanding what type of disease you have is important to avoid eating the wrong foods and to follow the correct treatment guidelines. Eating gluten-free might be difficult. However, there are many gluten-free wheat replacements.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is celiac disease the same as a food allergy?

Celiac disease is not a food allergy, most of it is an autoimmune disease. Food allergy, including wheat barley allergy, is a condition that people can overcome. 

What is celiac disease?

It is an autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine and makes it difficult to absorb nutrients.

What is gluten?

It is a protein found in a variety of food products. It works to give foods a fuller texture and essentials that hold things like cookies and muffins together, or the properties of the flour that make the sauce thicker.

How is it diagnosed?

To have a definitive diagnosis, doctors recommend to do a procedure called a small intestinal biopsy. While some use currently available, blood tests to detect including specific antibodies.

Is it necessary to have a small intestine biopsy?

Intestinal biopsy is a standard procedure for diagnosing and is therefore considered essential.

What medical treatment for this condition?

The only effective treatment is to completely avoid foods that contain gluten and follow it strictly.

How do I know what is safe to eat?

For the detailed development of a gluten-free diet, you may consult a dietitian specializing in gastrointestinal conditions. Gluten can be hidden in many products, and an experienced dietitian can help identify potential damage.

What diseases have been associated with this condition?

People with this condition tend to have other autoimmune disorders or genetic predispositions such as type 1 diabetes, liver disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

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Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

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