Healing from celiac disease is not easy to do and requires a specific treatment protocol. While hard to do, I personally healed my body from celiac disease, so I know it’s possible.
Someone with celiac disease has a shot immune system. Their small intestine is in shambles. Their villi, the hair-like follicles surrounding the small intestine responsible for nutrient absorption, is kaput. By the time someone is diagnosed with celiac disease, so much damage has been done.
However, I know that though some diet and lifestyle changes, healing is possible. I’d like to share with you how I restored my gut health after my celiac disease diagnosis in April 2012. Why is this important to share? Mainly because I think too often people think you can heal your gut just by going gluten-free and simply removing the offending gluten from your diet.
But the truth is, healing from celiac disease required so much more than simply removing the gluten from my diet. In fact, it required me to take out other offending foods and put good stuff back in. Healing from celiac disease has been a journey of learning, changing and growing.
UPDATE August 11, 2017: Incredible news! I asked my doctor to run some new blood tests on me. I’ve been feeling great, but I wanted to know, with greater confidence, if I had effectively healed myself from the damages caused by celiac disease after being on a gluten-free AND healthy diet for five years.
I am happy to report that the answer is YES!
My blood test couldn’t detect celiac disease nor a gluten sensitivity anymore. Five years ago, my Endomysial Antibody IgA test was positive (normal is negative) and my t-Transglutaminase (tTg) IgA was 10 (normal is 0-3). Studies have demonstrated that endomysial antibodies have over 99% specificity for gluten sensitive enteropathy.
All I needed to know was that, yes, I have effectively healed my body from celiac disease. Mind you, I will always have celiac disease and need to be gluten-free, but what I’m doing is WORKING!!
As with most things in life, there are never simple solutions to healing from celiac disease. There’s no magic pill. There’s nothing to cut out of you. No invasive procedures. There’s just food. Some food will continue to hurt you while some food will heal you.
Below I share with you the Cliffsnotes’ version of how I healed from celiac disease using a little common sense and a lot of TLC.
Take out the gluten. Add in anti-inflammatory foods.
Your gut will start to heal once you remove the irritant (gluten) from your diet, but your body will not make a full recovery without helping it along by eating anti-inflammatory foods. Remember, it’s not just about what you take out of your diet; but also it’s about healing your gut and nursing it back to health by putting good stuff back in.
There is a major difference between feeling better and truly healing from celiac disease. While removing gluten may put you on a path to feeling better, your gut has been massacred by gluten for many years. It took me years to finally start feeling better even though I was gluten-free. It wasn’t until I cleaned up my diet and started eating naturally gluten-free foods and paying attention to my gut health did I feel better.
Think of it this way. If you’re stabbed, you can remove the offending irritant (the knife) but your work is far from over. You still need to care for and nurse the wound, restoring it as best you can back to its original state. This is the same with celiac disease. You remove the irritant (gluten) AND you need to care for and nurse the wound inside of you if you want to restore your small intestine back to its original state.
To heal from celiac disease, I ate a lot of vegetables and fruits. I began green juicing daily, allowing my digestive system to rest while I soaked in all the nutrients. I also enjoyed homemade bone broths – which helped to strengthen the lining of my small intestine. I began taking a few vitamins and supplements (Vitamin D, Vitamin B, Fish Oil, and a supplement my friend Andrea sells calls Protandim, which helps me reduce the oxidative stress in my body. I do not endorse nor sell Protandim – I only take it and my gut feels better when I do).
Only with these supplements and my new anti-inflammatory diet was I able to begin healing from celiac disease.
Avoid packaged foods. Follow a whole foods diet.
Just because something is labeled “gluten-free” doesn’t mean it’s good for you, especially if you’ve just been diagnosed with celiac disease. While some packaged gluten-free foods are made with quality ingredients, more likely than not, if it comes in a box or bag and you found it at your local grocery store, it was made with cheap starchy substitutes (like rice, corn and soy) and it’s loaded with sugar to mask the taste.
Celiac sufferers need to become label detectives to determine what exactly is in those so-called “healthy” gluten-free packaged foods. You may just find that while you’re removing the offending gluten, you are now assaulting your gut in a new way with added sugar, white flours, GMOs, artificial dyes and preservatives.
While packaged foods can feed us in a pinch, the majority of your food should come from whole foods such as whole grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa), proteins (grass-fed meats, pasture-raised chickens and eggs), produce (eat the rainbow), and healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds and salmon) to help you nurse your gut back to health. Healing from celiac disease will come faster to those who cook at home with fresh, whole and unprocessed ingredients.
Stop feeding your gut sugar. Take a probiotic.
Your digestive system is in terrible shape. In fact, your small intestine, which is responsible for a large portion of your digestion, has tiny cuts all over it and the villi required for absorption of nutrition is flattened.
That said, chances are your sour tummy troubles aren’t just from gluten but also you suffer from candida or yeast growing in your belly. Bad bacteria and yeast like to take up residence in your gut and wreak havoc on your health by creating excessive gas, bloating and other digestive discomfort.
Guess what feeds and grows yeast in your belly? SUGAR!
When you go gluten-free, you must remove (or at least greatly reduce) sugar in your diet as well, at least until your body heals. Remember, white flours, like rice and tapioca flour, convert to sugar when you eat them. Simply get your sugar fix from whole fruits and sweet vegetables like beets, carrots and onions rather than white sugars and flours.
I wrote this article about the four root causes of sugar addiction and share 10 tips to cutting back on sugar in your diet. Also, beware of these 19 so-called health foods that aren’t even healthy – many of them are sugar loaders and gut offenders!!
I also recommend you take a good probiotic (look at the refrigerated section of your health store) to repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria. Avoid getting your probiotics from sugar-laden products like Yoplait Yogurt and GoodBelly Probiotic drinks, both which contain more sugar than a can of Coke and negate the benefits of your probiotics since the excessive sugar simply feeds the yeast. Don’t fall for marketing gimmicks – many yogurts and dairy products that contain probiotics are nothing more than sugary snacks. Read labels wisely! Work hard to achieve good gut health.
Avoid GMOs. Go organic.
Genetically modified foods are undeniably linked to illness in our country. While Monsanto would want you to believe otherwise, don’t ever forget that Monsanto is a chemical company that manufactures and sells weed-killing glyphosate (marketed as Roundup).
If you want to heal your gut from celiac disease, I suggest you stop eating Roundup-resistant produce (in other words, eat only organic produce), and that you only eat meats that are organic (or better, pasture-raised and grass-fed meats). Conventional animals from factory farms are fed GMO grains like corn and soy. It’s no secret that corn and soy are the most genetically modified crops in our country. In fact, 93% of soy is genetically modified and 88% of corn is too. Plus, pasture-raised, grass-fed animals have more nutrients (they are eating healthy grass and soaking in the sun’s rays), and they are treated more humanely than animals that come from factory lots.
Healing from celiac disease isn’t easy. In fact, it takes patience, know-how, and a commitment to changing your diet for the better. I am living proof that a gluten-free and healthy diet can work.
And if you think I’m perfect… think again.
The truth is I still eat plenty of cookies and enjoy pizza. I can do this because I’ve put in the hard work to heal my body. I eat more good stuff so I can still splurge when I want to. Remember, achieving diet perfection isn’t the end game. The goal is to heal your body so you can take back your life, and live with chronic disease and pain.