This post about healing from celiac disease contains affiliate links. All information in this post is based on my personal experiences. Please discuss any changes to your diet with your doctor and healers in your life. No information in this article is meant to replace medical advice. Please read my disclosures and disclaimers.
Healing from celiac disease is not easy and requires a specific treatment protocol. While naturally treating myself for celiac disease was hard to do (as you’re tempted by so many unhealthy choices and limited sources for good treatment information), I successfully healed my body from the damages caused by celiac disease, so I know it’s possible.
Please note that when I say I healed myself from celiac disease, I do not mean that I no longer have celiac disease. I will likely always have celiac disease. What I mean, instead, is that I live a symptom-free life. I still follow a strict gluten-free diet, and I eat as healthy as possible (with a few treats here and there).
UPDATE August 11, 2017: Incredible news! I asked my doctor to run 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 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.
I don’t want to be misleading, however. You have to be eating gluten in order for a test for celiac disease to be accurate. I haven’t knowingly had gluten in seven years, so it makes sense that my celiac disease blood test would be negative. (I also took a Gluten Detective test, which could not detect gluten in my urine either.)
I feel healthy. I take no prescription drugs. I have none of the symptoms (painful bloating, chronic gas, migraines, etc.) that plagued me for years, and that’s why I believe I have effectively healed my body from the damages caused by celiac disease.
Mind you, I will always have celiac disease and will always need to be gluten-free, but what I’m doing is WORKING to help me live a symptom-free, healthy life.
Someone with celiac disease has a weakened and damaged immune system. The small intestine and the villi (hair-like follicles surrounding the small intestine), all which are responsible for absorbing and distributing nutrients throughout the body, is kaput. By the time someone is diagnosed with celiac disease, so much damage has been done to the small intestine.
Many doctors tell their newly diagnosed celiac disease patients to go gluten-free and eventually they will feel better.
But that is shoddy advice.
It assumes that by solely eating anything gluten-free, you will eventually heal. This kind of singular advice and recommendation is dangerous. If you were stabbed in the gut with a knife, would the doctor just tell you to remove the knife?
Of course a gluten-free diet is a lifelong necessity for those who are gluten-free, but there is so much more to healing your body than simply swapping gluten-free pizza for regular pizza. Sugar is gluten-free too, after all.
And what about all that damage to your gut? How do you nurture the wound and accelerate healing? By simply removing the irritant, do all your problems go away and you’re suddenly healed? I think not.
According to Dr. Edwin Liu of the Colorado Center for Celiac Disease, the healing rate for adults with celiac disease is only 50 percent. This is sad but true. Kids heal quicker, at 90 percent, likely because the damage is caught early. (Read about 5 Reasons Why Early Detection of Celiac Disease is Crucial. Dr. Liu presented this information at a celiac disease presentation I attended at a conference in 2017.The healing rate for adults with celiac disease is only only 50 percent.Click To Tweet
If you have celiac disease, you must learn to think beyond the doctor’s office. Most doctors have not studied gluten disorders in earnest, and most doctors have taken only one nutrition class in all of their medical training.
I don’t say this to be mean to doctors; I say it as a reminder to you to do your own research and talk to people who have healed themselves from the damages caused by gluten. I also highly recommend you read this article, 10 Facts Your Doctor Doesn’t Know about Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivities. It’s a real eye-opener!
Healing From Celiac Disease IS Possible
I know first-hand that with the right information, along with some important diet and lifestyle changes, healing from celiac disease is possible.
In this post, I’ll share with you how I restored my gut health after my celiac disease diagnosis in April 2012. I offer this information to all my clients with celiac disease, and hope that you, too, will implement my celiac disease treatment protocol so you can naturally heal your body from celiac disease.
For me, healing my body from celiac disease and living a symptom-free, healthy life on a gluten-free diet has been a journey of learning, changing, healing and growing. It has tested and reaffirmed my faith.
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 surgical procedures.
In fact, there’s just food. Some food will continue to hurt you while some food will begin to help you heal.
10 Things I did to Heal Myself from Celiac Disease
Below I share with you how I healed from celiac disease and put my symptoms into remission for good. I hope you find this information helpful – and if you do, please leave a comment or drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you!
(1) 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 in the gut with a knife, you can remove the offending irritant (the knife) but healing is far from achieved. You still need to care for and nurse the wound, restoring your gut as best you can back to its original state. This is the same with celiac disease. Once you remove the irritant (gluten), you still need to care for and nurture the wound left behind.
So yes, remove the gluten, but don’t forget to to add in plenty of nutrient-dense foods like vegetables and fruits, seeds and nuts, healthy fats (fatty fish and avocado oils) and plenty of bioavailable proteins like eggs and lean organic meats.
(2) Rest your digestive system
To heal from celiac disease, I began green juicing daily to allow 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.
Think of it this way, when you break your leg, you stay off your leg, right? You don’t run a marathon or plan a ski vacation; rather you rest your leg.
When you are diagnosed with celiac disease, your digestive system is “broken.” That is why when you blend your food (aka, green juices), you are, in a sense, pre-digesting your food and breaking it down into easy-to-digest molecules. Your body will soak in 90 percent of the nutrients within the first 20 minutes of drinking that juice and guess what, your digestive system doesn’t have to lift a finger! If you were to chew all that food, your body would have to work really hard to digest the food and you’d only absorb about 40 percent of the nutrients. Amazing, right? Green juices allow you to rest your digestive system while soaking in essential nutrients your body needs.
Another way to get nutrients your body needs without having to work hard is by drinking bone broths. Bone broths are loaded with essential vitamins, trace minerals, collagen (a protein that contains amino acids essential for strengthening your bone, connective tissue, and skin) among other benefits. You can learn more about the benefits of bone broth, and get my bone broth recipe, in this post.
(3) Add key supplements
I believe we can get most of the nutrition we need from food, but there are some supplements that most humans need to take to encourage and maintain good health.
After I figured out that my healing was going to take longer than a few months, and that it required more effort than just removing gluten from my diet, I began to research supplements. That’s when I discovered a few nutrients I might have been missing from my diet:
Vitamin D: Most humans are Vitamin D deficient. I highly recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement. It will help with energy and ensure you get enough of this essential nutrient in your body to promote healing.
Vitamin B12: Most humans are also deficient in Vitamin B12, mainly because it’s found in organ meat. It’s great for improving energy and promoting good health.
Fish Oil: I highly recommend taking a high-quality fish oil supplement (about 1000 mg per day). I take this this one by Country Life every single day. Fish oil is loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, an essential nutrient that most of us don’t get enough of and which is essential to calming inflammation in the body. Omega 3 supplements are tasteless (thank goodness!).
I also recommend eating fatty fish (salmon and shellfish) as well as wild tuna (in moderation). Be weary of fish oil supplements that contain tuna as they may also contain high mercury levels.
Protandim: This is a controversial supplement just because it’s sold via MLM (I don’t sell it, sorry, but this is what it looks like), however, if it was sold in a normal supplement store, people wouldn’t be so up in arms about it. I, too, was weary at first because it’s an MLM, but after taking it, I noticed a considerable difference in my gut health, so I’m a believer. I’ve taken Protandim for several years and plan to continue taking it to proactively promote good health in my body.
Protandim reduces oxidative stress, which is the aging inside your body (think of an apple that begins to brown when exposed to air). Oxidative stress is responsible for disease and inflammation in our bodies, creating all sorts with free radicals. Protandim contains ingredients like milk thistle, bacopa, ashwagandha, green tea and turmeric, which, together gobble up all the free radicals in our body (I think of Pac-Man eating the pellets) and helps to calm oxidative stress and deter disease.
(4) Avoid packaged foods. Follow a whole foods diet.
I learned the hard way that just because something is labeled “gluten-free,” it 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 clean, quality ingredients, more likely than not, if it comes in a box or bag and you found it at your commercial 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. (Read 19 So-Called Healthy Foods that Aren’t Even Healthy)
While packaged foods can feed us in a pinch, the majority of your food should come from whole foods such as proteins (grass-fed meats, pasture-raised chickens and eggs), produce (organic vegetables and fruits), healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds and wild salmon), and even some grains if you can tolerate them (rice, millet, quinoa). I believe healing from celiac disease will come faster to those who cook at home with fresh, whole and unprocessed ingredients.
(5) Limit sugar
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 nutrients 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? Yep, it’s SUGAR!
When you go gluten-free, you must remove (or at least greatly reduce) sugar in your diet in addition to gluten, at least until your body heals. Remember, white flours, like rice and corn starch, 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 from white sugars and flours.
You may not realize it, but sugar addiction is a real thing and sometimes no matter how hard you try, it’s not in your control. That’s because there are many physical and emotional connections to sugar that are hard to overcome. Read my article, Sugar Addiction: 4 Root Causes of Cravings and 10 Tips to Cut the Sugar if you need help limiting sugar in your life.
(6) Take a probiotic
In addition to limiting sugar, I also HIGHLY recommend you take a good probiotic to repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria. I recommend one with 50 billion CFUs or higher. Take one every day and don’t stop. 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.
For me, probiotics were life changing. I felt an immediate impact in my gut health. I stopped taking them for a few months and my gas returned, telling me that something was not right inside my body. I take a probiotic every. single. day.
I recommend buying whatever is on sale and switching brands often. This allows you to add new strains of bacteria into your gut every 30-60 days. Rotate brands and come back to ones you enjoyed after a few months. It doesn’t matter if they’re refrigerated or shelf-stable either.
Read more about the benefits of probiotics for women and how it can improve your gut – and whole body – health.
[Note: I also now drink a lot of fermented tea, known as kombucha, to aid in restoring and maintaining my gut health.]
(7) Avoid eating sick foods. 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 powerful 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 animal products that are organic (or better, pasture-raised and grass-fed meats, eggs and dairy). No need to assault your gut with awful chemicals. You want to heal; not destroy your small intestine.
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. I wrote this article about the nutritional benefits of pasture-raised eggs. I was surprised at just how much better they are for you than conventional eggs.
(8) Be physical
I know this sounds cliche, but it’s important to keep active. Your body works well when it’s being used and challenged. Walk or bike daily, go to an exercise class, or get a gym membership (and use it). The more you put into taking care of your body, the faster it will be able to heal and thrive. (Think about when you’re recovering from surgery; while the doctor wants you to rest, she also wants you to up and about to aid in healing and getting your body back to normal again.)
I love to walk my dog every day for an hour (30 minutes in the winter). I also like to attend exercise classes (don’t judge, but I love Jazzercise!). When I go to Jazzercise, I see my friends there (so it’s social) and I get an amazing workout (I love dancing). Find something you love and do it. It’s great for your mental and physical health.
(9) Be social
It’s easy to get depressed and want to hide when you’re diagnosed with celiac disease. I did that at first and I think it did more harm than good. I was scared to go to restaurants or friend’s houses and the disease really took its toll on me. I decided I wasn’t going to let celiac disease ruin my life, so I began slowly but surely making plans with friends, helping them understand how to host me for a gluten-free meal, and how to make sure restaurants take my gluten-free diet seriously.
Being social and living my life (which meant going out to dinner from time to time) made a huge difference in my healing. Your mind is a powerful tool. If you sit home and feel sorry for yourself, you’ll muddle in your disease and become more and more depressed. But if you live your life, take the bull by the horns, and show celiac disease who is boss, you’ll heal faster and be stronger in the end.
If you want to learn to eat out safely, I highly recommend downloading this ebook, Eating Out Gluten-Free: The Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free Safe Dining at Restaurants and On-the-Go. I also highly recommend a Nima Sensor for helping you eat out safely. Don’t hide or use your gluten-free diet as an excuse to bow out of plans… make plans, go out to eat, and live your normal life!
(10) No cheating
Perhaps one of the things that I hear the most from people with celiac disease (and especially from people with gluten sensitivities) is that they sometimes cheat on their gluten-free diet. Cheating isn’t just knowingly eating gluten, but also it comes when you don’t take proper precautions, like eating something that “looks” gluten-free or that your friend “thinks” is gluten-free.
I wrote all about this topic in my article, Don’t Cheat On Your Gluten-Free Diet, but spoiler alert… when you cheat, you’ll feel awful, die earlier, attract disease in your life and no one will take your request for a gluten-free diet serious again (and you’ll ruin it for the rest of us too).
I believe that I was able to heal from celiac disease because I took my gluten-free diet serious. If I didn’t know for sure it was gluten-free, I didn’t eat it. If celiac disease is still detectable in your body, chances are you’re still eating gluten. If you’re serious about healing, no cheating. Period.
Still Feeling Sick?
If you’ve went gluten-free, and implemented many of the same healing practices I’ve implemented, and you still don’t feel well, you should definitely talk to your doctor or health care team to uncover if something more is going on.
You might have candida, thyroid issues, or another condition that might require medical intervention.
Additionally, I highly recommend experimenting on yourself. I took the Whole30 Challenge several year’s after going gluten-free to see if there might be foods (or food groups) that were still bothering me (besides gluten). I learned so much from that little experiment. I learned that alcohol upsets my stomach (so I rarely drink anymore) and I learned that cheese caused my acne. Haven’t had cheese – nor acne – in about four months. (Read: 10 Lessons from a Celiac on Whole30)
Are You Ready to Accelerate Healing?
As you may have realized by reading this, healing from celiac disease is not 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.
While I won’t eat gluten, the truth is I still eat my fair share of gluten-free cookies and gluten-free pizza. I love them. But you know what? The reason I can have these things now is because I’ve already put in the hard work to heal my body. My gut is sealed and healed. I’ve overcome my addictions to gluten, sugar and fast food. I load my body with healthy foods (still loving those green juices). When I want to splurge on a cookie, it doesn’t set me back anymore.
Remember, achieving diet perfection isn’t the end game. The goal is to heal your body so you can take back your life, live disease-free and enjoy a sweet treat when you want to… that is, without feeling overcome with sickness.
Wishing you much success in your venture to heal from celiac disease too.