Many of my clients ask me if celiac disease will ever go away. Just as it seemingly turned on overnight in some people, many wonder if it can simply turn off overnight, too. The information in this post is not meant to be construed as medical advice and contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures and disclaimers for more information.
Chances are if you’re reading this article, you have celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that affects 1 in 100 people in the U.S.
You might even be struggling to manage your symptoms, and hopeful for a cure or better treatment option beyond the gluten-free diet.
Most of all, you might be wondering if celiac disease will ever go away, if you’ll ever feel better, and what you can do to put this illness behind you. I’ll discuss it all in this article.
Can Celiac Disease Go Away?
A lot of people ask me if celiac disease can be cured or will it ever go away. Unfortunately, the answer is no. Once you are diagnosed with celiac disease, you will always have celiac disease (unless a treatment option pops up down the road, more on that later).
However, while celiac disease won’t ever go away, you can put your symptoms into remission. Remission is defined as a decrease in or disappearance of all signs and symptoms of the disease.
When you stop eating gluten, your symptoms may start to slowly but surely go away. You may no longer experience painful bloating, migraines or joint pain now that you’ve fully managed celiac disease in your body via diet.
Mind you, remission doesn’t mean you’re cured. It just means your symptoms are lessened or have completely disappeared, and your body has healed from the damages caused by celiac disease.
One of the confusing questions I get is from people who have be diagnosed with celiac disease but who later test negative for the disorder.
The reason they test negative is that they have put their symptoms in remission. A negative celiac blood test, while following a gluten-free diet, just means your body is no longer making antibodies to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, because you’re following a gluten-free diet; it doesn’t mean you’re cured from the disorder.
In fact, if/when you resume eating gluten again, not only will a blood test easily detect celiac disease again, but also your symptoms will [likely] come back with a vengeance.
You may be wondering how you can put your celiac disease symptoms into remission. Here’s what you need to do:
Step #1: Follow a Strict Gluten-Free Diet
The first step to putting celiac disease into remission is to abstain from eating any gluten, even tiny bits of it found in food not prepared safely.
It also means you must never “cheat” on your gluten-free diet. Even a crumb can set off an autoimmune attack in your body.
I know far too many people who say they eat gluten free, but say “a little bit” of gluten doesn’t bother them, or they’re okay having a “cheat” day now and then. Some even tell me they have silent celiac so it’s okay if they eat a little gluten here and there. They are wrong for these reasons (and more!):
(1) You Undo All Your Hard Work. Why bother eating gluten free some of the time? Eating gluten free is an all or nothing thing. If you want to reap the benefits of the diet, you have to be all-in.
(2) You Look Like a Fool. When you tell everyone you eat gluten free, and then you say, “I’m just going to take a bite of your bread,” you look like a fool. How can anyone take you – or your diet – seriously?
(3) You Make Me Look Like a Fool. When you eat just a little gluten, and people see/hear you doing it, you’re making it harder for the rest of us to be taken seriously. When people tell me their friend is gluten free but he eats a little gluten from time to time because “it doesn’t bother him,” I feel like they’re trying to tell me I’m too serious and uptight and I should be more like their friend. Grrr!
Remember, the longer you abstain from eating gluten, the more your body will begin to heal. It takes time and you should not expect overnight results or instant gratification. Healing your body doesn’t work that way.
The good news is that your body is programmed to heal when given the chance. When you stop eating gluten, you stop the autoimmune attack in its tracks.
A great way to tell if your gluten-free diet is working is to monitor your antibody levels (biomarkers). You can do it in the privacy of your home with this very helpful celiac disease monitoring
Step 2: Restore Your Gut Health
The second step to putting celiac disease into remission is to work hard to restore balance in your body. Wouldn’t it be lovely to feel like your normal self again?
Think of it this way. If you’re stabbed in the gut with a knife, are you “healed” by simply removing the knife. No way!
Gluten is the knife. You remove the irritant that caused the damage, but you did little to nurture the wounds left behind.
I suggest you do a little nurturing to get your body back to feeling its “normal” self again.
To do this, you want to work to restore your depleted nutrient bank. You can do this by:
Eating plenty of anti-inflammatory foods. Focus on upping your daily intake of fresh leafy greens and pretty much any vegetable or fruit on the planet. Read 10 Naturally Gluten-Free Foods Every Celiac Should Be Eating.
Limiting your meat consumption. Remember, meat is highly acidic and can create a slightly acidic ph balance in your body, keeping you feeling ill and ripe for disease to brew. A mostly plant-based diet has been proven time and time again to be superior for your health.
Addressing any nutritional deficiencies you have head on. After getting diagnosed with celiac disease, my doctor immediately checked my nutrient levels (and found I was severely depleted in Vitamins B and D). At the time my insurance covered it, but apparently most insurance plans won’t cover nutrient testing anymore because it’s considered “alternative medicine” and not “medically necessary.”
As you can see, insurance companies and Big Pharma are part of the problem, not the solution. They make a lot of money when you’re sick but little money when you’re healthy. Checking your nutrient bank from time to time may help you stay healthy and stave off disease – but who wants to cover that kind of test?
The good news is you can check your vitamin D levels with this at-home Vitamin D blood test, and your Vitamin B levels with this at-home Vitamin B blood test. It’s really easy to do and I just saved you from having to pay for a doctor visit just for him or her to tell you your insurance won’t cover a vitamin check-up despite it being essential for someone in your condition.
Taking a few supplements. I also recommend a few additional supplements, many of which you can’t make or consume enough of from food. Remember to consult your health care provider before taking any supplements (and read my disclaimers). Read more about the supplements I take – and recommend – in this article, Supplements for Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance.
Live stress free. It’s important to take care of your whole body and stress can negatively impact your health, particularly your gut health. Remove stressors from your life, get plenty of fresh air, moderate exercise, a good night’s sleep, and lots of Vitamin L (love). My health improved and my symptoms disappeared when I started to take care of my whole body, and that “care” extended well beyond food.
Can Gluten Sensitivity Go Away?
Another question I’m asked often is whether or not a gluten sensitivity can go away.
The truth is, no, it can’t. Once you have it, you have it.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan, the foremost thought leader in the space of gluten disorders and author of The Autoimmune Fix (the best book I’ve read on the topic of gluten disorders), sounds off on whether or not gluten sensitivity is a lifelong affliction.
He says in an interview, “If you have the sensitivity to gluten—it’s a lifelong problem. You can’t be a little pregnant… it’s like that. The only grain we know of that’s lifelong is wheat. The immune system has memory b-cells and it makes them for wheat. We don’t know if the body makes them to any other grains, but with wheat, we know it’s a slam dunk. It’s lifelong.”
The fact that your immune system has memory b-cells to wheat is eye-opening to me. Your body makes antibodies to invading pathogens like viruses, and these antibodies form memory cells that remember that exact pathogen so it can more quickly produce antibodies and fight off future infections. It’s why we get vaccines to deadly viruses. It trains the immune system to recognize and combat these pathogens quickly.
Bottom line: If you have a gluten sensitivity, you have it for life. And when you eat “just a little gluten,” you reactivate those memory b cells and awaken the inflammatory fires that lie dormant inside of you.
There is a Difference
Remember, there is a difference between putting your symptoms of celiac disease into remission and curing celiac disease. Right now, there is no cure for celiac disease, and no, celiac disease cannot just go away. Neither can a gluten sensitivity.
However, if you remove gluten from your diet (and if you’re serious about eating gluten free – no gluten, ever), and you take steps to replenish your nutrient reserves, keep your ph balance in check, and mind your gut health, you’ll be in a position to put all your symptoms into remission for good.
Does this approach work for everyone? No. But, for the majority of people with celiac disease, it works. And best of all, this approach requires no potentially harmful, potent drugs; just good old-fashioned common sense and the food on your plate.