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. This post last updated February 28, 2020.
Healing from celiac disease is not easy and requires a specific treatment protocol beyond the gluten-free diet.
That said, I am living proof that it’s possible to heal your body from the damages caused by celiac disease. I have effectively put my celiac disease into remission. Celiac disease it undetectable in me (and I have two blood tests to prove it).
Please note that when I say I healed myself from celiac disease, I do not mean that I no longer have celiac disease. Celiac disease is a lifelong condition. I will 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), to ensure my celiac disease remains dormant inside of me.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes you to have a weakened and damaged digestive system.
The microvilli, which are hair-like follicles surrounding the small intestine responsible for absorbing and distributing nutrients throughout the body, is flattened and kaput.
By the time someone is diagnosed with celiac disease, much damage has been done to the small intestine and digestive has been impaired.
Related Reading: What is Celiac Disease?
Many doctors tell their newly diagnosed celiac disease patients to go gluten-free and eventually they will feel better.
This is, no doubt, only a half truth.
It assumes that by solely eating anything gluten free and doing nothing else, you will eventually heal. The key word being “eventually.”
It might takes weeks, months, years or even decades, if ever, to fully heal, and most people with celiac disease never go on to fully recover.
One study concluded that mucosal [gut lining] recovery was absent in a “significant” portion of people with celiac disease even after treatment with the gluten-free diet.
The reason healing occurs slowly, if ever, might be two-fold.
First, the damage is deep in celiac disease patients. Many have been suffering from undiagnosed celiac disease for years. A deep wound takes longer to heal – fair enough.
Second, we know that for celiac disease to occur, three factors must be present. Someone must carry one of the celiac genes, be eating gluten, and experience some sort of intestinal permeability or leaky gut episode.
Related Reading: What Causes Celiac Disease and Can It Be Prevented?
This means a leaky gut is the catalyst for turning on a dormant celiac disease gene. So why didn’t your doctor tell you to address your leaky gut?
What If You Could Accelerate Intestinal Healing?
Of course a gluten-free diet is a lifelong prescription for those with celiac disease, but there is so much more to healing your damaged gut than simply swapping gluten-free pizza for regular pizza. Sugar is gluten free and does little to “heal” your body.
I like to use this analogy. Let’s say you were stabbed in the gut with a knife, would the doctor tell you to just remove the knife and send you on your way? No way!
Of course, you must remove the knife. But you must also nurture the wounds left behind or risk getting worse or bleeding out.
Now apply this logic to celiac disease. If you simply remove the irritant (gluten), do all your problems suddenly go away? Is your gut lining fully restored? Are you magically healed?
If you have celiac disease, you must learn to think beyond your doctor’s advice. 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.
You might be surprised to find out that it takes more than simply removing gluten to heal your body from the damages left behind in gluten’s path of destruction.
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.
Again, healing is not the same as the disease going away. In order to heal, and stay healed, you must eat gluten free for life.
In this post, I share 10 things I did to restore my health after my celiac disease diagnosis in April 2012.
This is my personal celiac disease treatment protocol and I cannot say if it will work for you. I share it so you can consider what I’ve done, discuss options with your health care team, and decide for yourself how you want to move forward.
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.
Celiac disease has tested and reaffirmed my faith.
Related Reading: 15 Ways I’ve Made Peace with Celiac Disease
As with most things in life, there are no simple solutions to healing from celiac disease. There’s no magic pill. There’s nothing to cut out of you. No invasive surgical procedures. No vaccines.
There’s just you, some gluten-free food, and a whole lot of determination to get through it.
10 Ways I Restored My Health Post-Celiac Disease
Below are 10 strategies I implemented to heal myself from celiac disease and put my symptoms into remission for good.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you do, please leave a comment or drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you!
(1) Take out gluten. Add in anti-inflammatory foods
Your gut will start to heal once you remove the irritant (gluten) from your diet, but it will be a slow slog towards recovery unless you help it along by eating plenty of anti-inflammatory foods along the way.
Remember, the gluten-free diet isn’t just about what you take out of your diet; but also it’s about what you put in your diet that counts.
Related Reading: The Celiac Disease Diet: What a Celiac Can and Can’t Eat
So yes, remove the gluten, but don’t forget to to add in plenty of nutrient-dense foods, including:
- Whole vegetables and fruits
- Seeds and nuts
- Healthy fats (fatty fish and avocado)
(2) Rest your digestive system
If you break your leg, you rest it, right? You don’t run a marathon, plan a ski vacation, or even take your dog for a long walk.
Now apply this same logic to healing your digestive system and gut.
What are ways you can rest your digestive system to allow it to heal without starving yourself for days?
We eat day-in and day-out, making our digestive system work non-stop. Only when we sleep does our digestive system fully get to rest, digest and restore.
There are several ways you can rest your digestive system. Here are a few strategies to consider:
Chew Food Thoroughly: Digestion begins when you grind your food in your mouth. While you physically break down the food, your saliva is also releasing digestive enzymes that aid in chemically breaking down your food as well. Chew your food thoroughly to make your gut have to work less.
Green Juicing: Swap one meal or snack for a green juice. This will flood your body with essential nutrients without having to make your digestive system lift a finger.
Related Reading: 10 Amazing Juice Recipes + 10 Day Juice Challenge
When you juice (or even blend) your vegetables, you are pre-digesting them, breaking them down into easy-to-digest molecules. This allows your body to soak in 90 percent of the nutrients within the first 20 minutes of drinking that juice. 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.
Bone Broths: 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.
Bone broths, for all intents and purposes, are great at helping to restore and strengthen your mucosal lining (the lining of your small intestine), and calming inflammation.
Related Reading: The Benefits of Bone Broth + My Amazing Bone Broth Recipe
Intermittent Fasting: Another way to rest your digestive system is to employ intermittent fasting.
I fast daily from 7pm until 7am, with few exceptions. This allows my digestive system 12 hours to digest, rest and restore each day, and it keeps me from reaching for unneeded sweets at night.
Some people fast longer, and this is obviously a personal decision up to each individual. However, for me, I am careful to not become obsessive or unrealistic in implementing fad strategies. This isn’t about disordered eating, this is about healing from a disorder in a very logical way.
Along these same lines, limit snacking. No need to feed the machine all day long. Give it a chance to rest between feedings.
Limit Acidic Foods: Acidic foods are hard for your tummy to digest, and I suggest avoiding them as much as possible. You want to eat mostly alkalizing foods (fresh vegetables, for example), and less highly acidic foods, like carbonated sodas, meats, cheeses and all animal products. This will help you maintain a good, slightly alkaline ph balance in your body.
(3) Add key supplements
I believe we can get most of the nutrients we need from the food we eat, but there are some supplements that most humans need to encourage and maintain good health.
Vitamin D: Most humans are Vitamin D deficient. I highly recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement. It will help you restore your energy, promote healing, and strengthen your immune system. I highly recommend this brand.
Vitamin B12: Most humans are also deficient in Vitamin B12. B12 is great for improving energy and promoting good health. This is the Vitamin B12 supplement I use.
Fish Oil: I take this exact fish oil supplement (about 1000 mg per day) 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!). Be wary of fish oil supplements that contain tuna as they may also contain high mercury levels.
Protandim: I’ve taken Protandim for several years and plan to continue taking it to proactively promote good health in my body. Protandim works by reducing oxidative stress, which is the aging inside your body.
Think of an apple that begins to brown when exposed to air; this is oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is responsible for aging, disease, inflammation, and creating free radicals inside the body.
Protandim contains ingredients like milk thistle, bacopa, ashwagandha, green tea and turmeric, which, together gobble up all the free radicals (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.
Related Reading: How Do You Diagnose 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 on the shelves at your grocery store, it was made with cheap starchy substitutes (like rice, corn and soy) and it’s loaded with sugar to mask the lack of gluten.
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’re now assaulting your gut in a new way with added sugar, white flours and starches, GMOs, artificial dyes, and preservatives.
Related Reading: Is It Gluten Free? Decoding 20 Confusing Ingredients and Products
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 whole gluten-free grains if you can tolerate them (brown rice, millet, quinoa).
Related Article: 19 So-Called Healthy Foods that Aren’t Even Healthy
(5) Limit sugar
As we talked about earlier, post-celiac disease diagnosis, your digestive system is in shambles.
Chances are your sour tummy woes aren’t just from gluten but also are from unwanted bacteria and yeast taking up residence in your gut.
Because we know one of the three causes of celiac disease is intestinal permeability, chances are you have a belly full of bad bacteria and yeast wreaking havoc on your health by creating excessive gas, bloating and other digestive discomfort.
Related Article: What is Candida? Understanding and Treating Candida Albicans
Guess what feeds and grows yeast in your belly? Yep, it’s sugar! And the bacteria and yeast in your belly demand sugar in order for them to thrive and proliferate.
But what if you could starve out the bad guys by removing (or at least reducing) sugar in your diet in addition to ditching gluten, at least until your body heals? Remember, white flours, like rice and corn starch, convert to sugar when you eat them.
If you crave sugar, eat whole fruits and sweet vegetables like beets, carrots and onions until the craving calms. These can satisfy your sweet tooth while giving you extra nutrients and fiber all the while.
(6) Take a high quality probiotic
In addition to limiting sugar, I also take a good probiotic, like this one. A probiotic can help you repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria, replacing the bad bacteria with good bacteria.
I recommend taking a probiotic with at least 50 billion CFUs or higher. Take one every day and don’t stop, even if you feel better.
Avoid getting your probiotics from sugar-laden products like Yoplait Yogurt, GoodBelly Probiotic drinks, or Tropicana Probiotic Juice, all which likely contain more sugar than a can of Coke per serving and negate the benefits of your probiotics since the excessive sugar simply feeds the yeast.
Related Article: The Benefits of Probiotics
For me, probiotics were life changing. I felt an immediate impact in my gut health. It’s why I now take a probiotic every single day.
I recommend buying whatever brand 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.
Recommend Reading: Make Your Own Kombucha
(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 foods. Instead, buy organic products and animal products.
There’s no need to assault your gut with such chemicals. You want to heal, not destroy your small intestine.
(8) Be physical
Anyone who has ever recovered from a surgery knows that there is little time to rest. The doctor wants you up and about, walking around and in rehab, all with the goal to help your body return to normalcy.
This is why it’s important to stay active and keep that blood flowing throughout your body. 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.
I love to walk my dog every day for an hour (30 minutes in the winter). I also like to attend exercise classes (I love Jazzercise!). When I go to Jazzercise, I see my friends there (love the social aspects of it) and I get an amazing workout too. 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.
Related Reading: The Emotional Burden of the Gluten-Free Diet
I was scared to go to restaurants or friend’s houses and the disease really took its toll on me.
However, long ago I decided I wasn’t going to let celiac disease ruin my life. I slowly but surely began making plans with friends, helping them understand how to host me for a gluten-free meal, and how to make sure restaurants take my 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.
If you sit home and feel sorry for yourself, you’ll muddle in your disease and become 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.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Out Gluten Free
(10) No cheating
Too often, people with celiac disease (and especially people with non-celiac gluten sensitivities) cheat on their gluten-free diet. They say things like, “A little gluten doesn’t bother me.”
Related Reading: Don’t Cheat On Your Gluten-Free Diet
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 meal serious again.
Oh, and your lackadaisical approach to the gluten-free diet will ruin it for the rest of us who are trying to be taken seriously.
If you want to heal from celiac disease, you must take your gluten-free diet seriously. If you don’t know if something is gluten free, don’t eat it. No cheating, ever.
Still Feeling Sick?
If you’ve been on the gluten-free diet for awhile, and you’ve implemented many of the same healing practices I’ve discussed in this article, and you still don’t feel well, please talk to your doctor and health care team to uncover if something more is a play.
You might have a serious case of candida, SIBO, mold/toxic exposure, hormone imbalance, thyroid issues, or another condition that might require medical intervention.
Are You Ready to Accelerate Healing?
As you may have realized by reading this, healing from celiac disease is possible, but it requires effort on your part.
In fact, it takes patience, know-how, and a commitment to changing your diet and lifestyle for the better.
That said, I am living proof that a gluten-free AND healthy diet can work.
Related Article: Join the 7-Day Heal Your Gut Challenge
While I won’t eat gluten, the truth is I still eat my fair share of gluten-free cookies and gluten-free pizza. But you know what? The reason I can have these foods now is because I’ve put in the hard work upfront to heal my body.
My gut is sealed and healed. I’ve overcome my addictions to gluten, sugar, and fast food. I constantly load my body with healthy foods. I still love green juices.
If I want to eat a gluten-free cookie, I do it. There’s no shame in that after putting in the hard work to heal.
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, rebuild your immune system, and enjoy a sweet treat when you want to without being overcome with sickness.
I wish you much success in your venture to heal from celiac disease. If you found this article helpful, please leave me a comment and share your “healing” story.