Once patients have been diagnosed as having celiac disease they are 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 other people with celiac disease 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 and the small intestine is usually completely healed—meaning the villi are intact and working—in 6 to 18 months. (It may take up to 2 years for older adults.) Left untreated, celiac disease may result in:
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Increased risk of infertility or miscarriage
- Adenocarcinomas of the intestinal tract