Once a diagnosis has been confirmed through a biopsy to be celiac disease, the patient is instructed to begin following the gluten-free diet. This can often be difficult at first because so many foods contain gluten. However, through support and guidance from experienced celiac patients and a skilled dietitian, many newly diagnosed patients learn that the gluten-free diet requires some creativity and planning, but that great-tasting food isn’t out of reach.
The only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet—that is, to avoid all foods that contain gluten. For most people, following this diet will stop symptoms, heal existing intestinal damage, and prevent further damage. Improvements begin within weeks of starting the diet. Although the vast majority of children undergo full healing of their intestinal lining, research has shown that the healing may remain incomplete in many adults, even though symptoms may regress.
The gluten-free diet is a lifetime requirement. Eating any gluten, no matter how small an amount, can damage the small intestine. This is true for anyone with the disease, including people who do not have noticeable symptoms. Antibody levels take a long time (sometimes more than a year) to normalize after a person has stopped eating gluten. The doctor will assess if your intestinal damage is improving satisfactorily or not, based on the, based on the pace of the decline of antibody levels. Depending on a person’s age at diagnosis, some problems, such as delayed growth and tooth discoloration, may not improve.