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Celiac Disease - Treatment Overview

The treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. Eating even the smallest amount of gluten can cause symptoms such as weight loss and diarrhea.

A gluten-free diet means:

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  • Avoiding all foods with wheat, barley, rye, triticale (a wheat-rye cross), or oats. Oats may later be gradually reintroduced into the diet.
  • Avoiding beer unless it is gluten-free. Beers with and without alcohol, including lagers, ales, and stouts, contain gluten unless the label specifically says that the beer is gluten-free.
  • Eating meals that include rice, corn, millet, and buckwheat.

You may also be advised to temporarily avoid milk or milk products until your intestine heals. Then you may be able to gradually reintroduce them.

For more information about following a gluten-free diet, see Home Treatment.

If you have nutritional deficiencies, you may need other treatments, such as vitamin, iron, and calcium supplements.

Treatment for complications varies depending on the specific problems and their severity. For example, some adults may require long-term treatment for complications, such as osteoporosis.

When a gluten-free diet doesn't seem to help

If it seems that you or your child is not getting better, you may need:

  • A diet evaluation to ensure that it is gluten-free. Your doctor or dietitian can help you find out if you are eating foods with hidden gluten. Older children and teens may need to be reminded about the importance of staying with the diet.
  • Testing for other diseases or conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, if no gluten is detected in your diet.
  • Reevaluation of your original upper endoscopy and biopsy to ensure the accuracy of diagnosis.
  • Oral steroids (in very rare cases). Experts disagree about using steroid medicines to treat people who have celiac disease and do not get better on a gluten-free diet.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 16, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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