Once patients start following a gluten-free diet, they tend to experience marked improvements in their symptoms. A dietitian typically helps newly diagnosed patients learn how to avoid gluten and implement a healthy, nutritious, gluten-free diet. The dietitian can provide valuable advice regarding how to do the following:
- Read food or product labels
- Identify ingredients containing gluten
- Design meal plans
- Make healthy choices
Getting Better After Starting Gluten-Free Diets
Once a gluten-free diet is started, most people feel better.
They also experience healing of their intestines and future damage is prevented. It may be only days after starting a gluten-free diet that patients see improvement of symptoms. Most are much-improved after just a few weeks. The small intestine is fairly resilient and can be healed within three to six months in children.
Adults may need a few years for complete healing. But once the intestine is healed, nutrients from food will be absorbed into the bloodstream normally. A gluten-free diet is not enough for some people with celiac disease. Usually, this means that there is still gluten being consumed from some unknown source.
Once that culprit is discovered, most patients respond to their gluten-free diet as expected. The biggest sources of “hidden” gluten in the diets of people striving to be gluten-free are:
- Modified food starch
Other Conditions Afflicting Some Celiac Disease Patients
Even after making required dietary changes, some celiac disease patients may have continued problems. Quite often, these are symptoms of co-conditions that may exist alongside the gluten intolerance. Those conditions may include:
- Microscopic colitis
- Pancreatic exocrine insufficiency
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Lactose intolerance
- Other food intolerances or allergies
Some people’s small intestines still fail to absorb nutrients after maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle. This is known as refractory celiac disease. The condition involves severe damage to small intestines which will not heal. Often, intravenous nutrition delivery will help their bodies heal and receive the nutrients it needs. There is presently strong focus on research into potential medications to treat refractory celiac disease.
Treatment of Dermatitis Herpetiformis
For those afflicted by dermatitis herpetiformis as part of their celiac disease, skin problems usually heal in response to a gluten-free diet. If gluten is reintroduced into the diet, the skin condition can recur. There are medications which can help dermatitis herpetiformis. But these medications must be used in conjunction with a strict gluten-free diet. Even under the best gluten-free and medication circumstances, it may take years for skin to fully heal.
Untreatable Aspects of Celiac Disease
Some aspects of celiac disease cannot be treated and will not heal with proper diet. Dental enamel defects cannot be reversed. They can be concealed through installation of dental veneers, if desired. Short stature is another condition caused by gluten intolerance which cannot be rectified.