As soon as you start your gluten-free diet, you should begin to feel better very quickly although your gut may take a while to fully recover. However, coeliac disease is a life-long condition; you will not grow out of it. A gluten-free diet for life is the primary treatment and there is no cure at present.
Other treatments may include:
- Treatment of the small intestine with corticosteroids temporarily if the inflammation is severe.
- Taking dietary supplements if nutritional deficiencies are found. However once the small intestine heals, there should be no need for dietary supplements if your diet is well-balanced and nourishing. You should consult a dietitian to help you get started on a nutritious gluten-free diet.
The Coeliac Society is here to help you stick to your gluten-free diet. There are plenty of foods that are naturally gluten-free. Also, the range of specialised gluten-free products is growing all the time. Have a look at the choosing food section of this website for more information.
Symptoms usually improve within a few weeks of starting a gluten-free diet. However blood test results and biopsy may not return to normal for one or two years. Children usually recover faster than adults.
Initially you should follow up with your doctor every 6 months. Your doctor will repeat the blood tests to ensure that the gluten-free diet has been effective. After your antibodies have returned to normal, a further biopsy can be carried out to check that the small intestine has healed.
If your blood test and/or biopsy results show that you are responding well to the gluten-free diet it is important to stick to it. If you eat gluten your small intestine will become damaged again and your symptoms will return.
Support with the gluten-free diet is essential. It is important that the gluten-free diet is healthy, balanced and nutritionally adequate. A properly qualified dietitian can advise you on how best to achieve this. Find a dietitian who’s a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI).