Reaping the Benefits of Going Gluten-Free with Celiac Disease


Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. When people with celiac eat gluten, it triggers an immune response that attacks and destroys the villi - small finger-like protrusions in the small intestine that absorb nutrients. 

This can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, weight loss, fatigue and nutritional deficiencies. The only treatment for celiac disease is strictly adhering to a gluten-free diet. 

A photo depicting a healthy small intestine with regenerated villi after adopting a gluten-free diet.

Avoiding gluten comes with many benefits for celiac patients including:

Resolution of Symptoms

Within weeks of eliminating gluten from the diet, most celiac patients find relief from the painful and unpleasant symptoms they’ve been suffering with. Diarrhea, cramping, gas and bloating typically resolve quite quickly once dietary gluten is removed. Fatigue, headaches, “brain fog”, joint pain and other issues also tend to improve for most patients as the gut has a chance to heal.

Improved Nutrient Absorption

When the villi are damaged from celiac disease, nutrient absorption is impaired. Going gluten-free allows the gut to heal and the villi to regrow, improving the body’s ability to properly absorb important vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Nutritional deficiencies that are common with untreated celiac such as anemia, low calcium, B vitamin shortfalls and more can be reversed with diligent gluten avoidance and improved nutrient absorption.

Reduced Cancer and Mortality Risk 

Several studies show celiac patients have a heightened risk of developing intestinal cancers like lymphoma and small bowel cancer. Eliminating gluten lowers this risk and brings it back in line with the general population. The mortality rate for celiac disease also doubles when patients continue eating gluten. Removing gluten from the diet has been shown to decrease the overall death rate.

Improved Quality of Life

Between the unpleasant digestive symptoms, fatigue, pain and emotional toll of managing celiac disease, quality of life is often significantly impaired. Sticking to a gluten-free diet has been shown to dramatically increase overall feelings of health and well-being. Many patients report improved energy, better mood, reduced anxiety and happiness from being able to live a normal, active lifestyle after going gluten-free.

Dietary Freedom 

At first glance, a gluten-free diet may seem very restrictive. However, patients quickly realize they can still enjoy plentiful foods that are naturally gluten-free: vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, dairy, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds and gluten-free whole grains like rice, quinoa, buckwheat and corn. 

With some simple substitutions like using gluten-free oats, bread and pasta, the diet doesn't have to feel limiting. Getting creative in the kitchen and planning meals ahead of time helps ensure dietary compliance.

While celiac disease has no cure, adopting a strict gluten-free diet offers immense benefits. Nutrient absorption, digestive health, cancer risk profiles, mortality rates and quality of life all improve dramatically when gluten is meticulously avoided. 

While challenging at first, committing to a gluten-free lifestyle allows celiac patients to live healthier and happier lives.