This post, Is There a Cure for Celiac Disease?, contains affiliate links and information that should be discussed with your doctor. Please see my disclosures and disclaimers.
I’m often asked if there’s a cure for celiac disease, and I hate to report that the answer is no.
Doctors once thought a banana-based diet cured celiac disease (no joke), according to this article in NPR, however, we know there is no cure for celiac disease, and the only way to manage celiac disease is by eating a 100 percent gluten-free diet.
Related Reading: What is Celiac Disease?
We now know that this so-called “banana diet” forbade patients, all children, from eating grains (and gluten is found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley).
Once the children healed, their doctors mistakenly told their parents their children were “cured,” which was not true. They were healed, but not cured.
Once the children resumed their normal eating habits, they continued to suffer from lifelong, chronic issues, never realizing that celiac disease is a lifelong affliction with no cure and no treatment options except for lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet.
Why No Cure for Celiac Disease?
The Celiac Disease Foundation says in this article that the reason there is no cure for celiac disease is complex.
Celiac Disease Has Been Marginalized
For starters, celiac disease has been a marginalized by the medical community as a rare childhood disorder, something we now know is not true.
As a result, the Celiac Disease Foundation says that over the last several decades, celiac disease researchers have been “denied the adequate resources needed to understand the basic biochemistry of the disease, must less cure it.”
Lack of Funding
The Foundation goes on to say that the reason there is no cure for celiac disease may also be because celiac disease lacks funding.
“Because the primary treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet, the private sector has not been able to project the return on investment (ROI) needed to convince their shareholders to pour the hundreds of millions of dollars needed into celiac disease research to produce a treatment or a cure,” according to a report called iCureCeliac, published by the Celiac Disease Foundation.
Pharmaceutical companies do not operate as charities. They are part of a multi-billion dollar industry. Pharmaceutical companies put money into research if they think it might result in billions of dollars in ROI.
While the private sector doesn’t see celiac disease research as profitable, the public sector also might be negatively impacting research for celiac disease.
Related Reading: How to Get Tested for Celiac Disease
A proof point came in Q4 of 2017 when a team of researchers questioned how the National Institutes of Health makes spending decisions for gastrointestinal research. Their findings were published in Gastroenterology and discussed in detail in Reuters.
The National Institutes of Health is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and decides how Federal (public money) is spent on health and medical research.
In the article, researchers found that celiac disease, which affects 1 percent of Americans, consistently received the lowest amount of research dollars (about $15.4 million over a period of five years).
On the other hand, researchers found that Crohn’s disease, which has the second lowest prevalence of all the GI conditions included in the analysis and afflicts about 0.25 percent of the American population, received the highest amount of funding ($77.5 million over the same five year period).
On top of that, another GI disorder known as Barrett’s esophagus, which, like celiac disease, impacts about 1 percent of the population, received $64 million in funding dollars over the same five year period. This is more than $48 million more than what is allocated to researching celiac disease despite the condition afflicting the same number of people.
Researchers also found a similar pattern in the number of research grants awarded towards various GI disorders. Crohn’s disease received the greatest number of research grants (about 40 grants per year), and celiac disease received the fewest number of grants (eight grants per year).
I don’t share this information to make it seem like one disease is more important than the other, nor should funding decisions be based solely on the number of people afflicted (other factors should be considered, like quality of life, other treatment options, etc.). I only share this information to help you understand why there may be no cure for celiac disease now or on the horizon.
How Do You Manage Celiac Disease?
Not all is gloom and doom, however, if you have celiac disease.
Despite no cure on the horizon, there are solutions to help you manage the symptoms associated with celiac disease and deter future damage to your body.
Solution #1: Eat a Strict, Gluten-Free Diet
In my prior post, What Causes Celiac Disease?, I wrote about three factors that contribute to the development of celiac disease. They include:
- Genetic predisposition
- Consumption of the trigger food (gluten)
- Intestinal permeability (aka, leaky gut)
While you cannot control your wonky genes, you can control the disease and put it into remission so it does not affect you, nor is it detectable in your body.
Related Reading: Why You Should Never Cheat on Your Gluten-Free Diet
The best way to manage symptoms associated with celiac disease is through a strict, gluten-free diet. The key word being “strict.” You cannot eat a low-gluten diet, or cheat on your diet every so often. It’s all or nothing. And it’s for life.
I’d like to add that while the gluten-free diet feels restrictive at first, it gets easier with time. It’s never easy, but it doesn’t get easier.
Related Reading: 21 Struggles Only Gluten-Free People Will Understand
There are many products that make gluten-free foods that can safely be enjoyed on the gluten-free diet. There are many restaurants that cater to gluten-free patrons, which you can read about in my book, The Ultimate Guide to Eating Out Gluten Free.
Solution #2: Heal Your Damaged Intestines
On top of eating a strict, gluten-free diet, you can also speed up the healing of your damaged small intestine.
I wrote about how I cleaned up my diet – not just eliminated gluten – and how that helped me feel better faster and truly give me a chance at good health in my article, How I Put Celiac Disease into Remission and Healed My Body.
Think of it this way.
Let’s say you’ve been stabbed in the gut with a knife. If you remove the knife, are you suddenly normal and healthy again? Are you healed?
You must take the time to nurture and care for the wound left behind, right?
The same is the case with gluten.
You may remove the gluten from your diet, but you still must take some time to nurse the wounds left behind.
Solution #3: Avoid Other Irritants
There’s no need to continue to assault your gut with other damaging foods that deter in your healing and may even propel more damage.
This is why you may need to also remove – either temporarily or permanently – other irritant foods like sugar, dairy, corn or grains altogether or until you’re feeling better.
I recommend taking an at-home food sensitivity test by Everlywell to explore your individual food sensitivities and to identify other potential irritant foods.
Solution #4: Supplement, If Needed
On top of eating healthy foods, I also recommend talking to your doctor about taking a few supplements to aid in the healing process. If you have celiac disease, your body has been deprived of proper nutrient absorption for a long time.
Related Reading: The Benefits of Probiotics
Celiac Disease Treatment Options
While there is no cure for celiac disease, there are some promising celiac disease treatment options on the horizon.
Potential treatment options include a possible vaccine, a pill that is capable of breaking down gluten before it reaches the small intestine, and another pill that tightens the loose junctures in your gut.
Related Reading: Celiac Disease Treatment Options on the Horizon.
None of these treatment protocols have passed FDA muster – at least yet – but there are many clinical trials underway with the aim at treating celiac disease or at least helping people feel better upon accidental exposure to gluten.
None of these treatment options currently being developed, as far as I’m aware, will allow someone with celiac disease to eat gluten again.
What Do You Do?
Celiac disease researchers have not delivered a cure to the millions of people battling celiac disease daily; they have only come up with a single approved treatment option: The gluten-free diet.
I know this is disheartening to you as it is disheartening to me, as being gluten-free is a constant struggle in a world filled with gluten.
However, take solace in knowing that you control your own fate and you’re not dependent on some (likely) overpriced drug to fix you. You hold the power to make yourself healthy and strong again… just as Dorothy had the power to go home all along.
What you put at the end of your fork can either hurt or help you. You decide with every bite.
Thank you for reading, Is there a cure for celiac disease? Please note that nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice. Please consult your team of health care professionals before making changes to your diet. Please read my disclaimers and disclosures before reading, Is there a cure for celiac disease?