Mayo Clinic: If someone has been diagnosed with celiac disease
but has never had any symptoms, would eating a gluten-free
diet still be necessary?
Following a strict gluten-free diet is important for anyone
who has celiac disease, even if the disorder does not trigger
any symptoms. Eating gluten when you have celiac disease
injures the small intestine. Over time, that injury raises the
risk for developing complications related to celiac disease.
people who have celiac disease, eating gluten ó a protein
found in wheat, barley and rye ó sparks an immune response
in the small intestine that leads to inflammation. Over time,
that inflammation damages the tiny, hair-like projections,
called villi, which line the small intestine. Villi absorb
vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food you eat.
Normally, villi resemble the deep pile of a plush carpet, on a
microscopic scale. The damage resulting from celiac disease
makes the inner surface of the small intestine appear more
like a tile floor. When that happens, the small intestine has
difficulty absorbing some crucial nutrients the body needs to
stay healthy and grow.
symptoms and presentation of celiac disease can vary quite a
bit from one person to another. In some cases, it may not
cause noticeable symptoms right away. When symptoms do occur,
they can include bloating and weight loss. Bowel changes due
to celiac disease may trigger a range of gastrointestinal
symptoms, from diarrhea to constipation.
people who have celiac disease donít have any
gastrointestinal problems. Instead, tests may reveal
iron-deficiency anemia or premature bone disease. Less common
symptoms of celiac disease can include an itchy, burning rash,
called dermatitis herpetiformis, as well as heartburn,
headaches, fatigue and joint pain, among others.
celiac disease doesnít cause symptoms, following a
gluten-free diet may seem like an unnecessary challenge. But
it is critical for everyone with celiac disease to eliminate
gluten from the foods they eat. If that doesnít happen,
celiac disease can result in serious complications.
example, when the small intestine cannot absorb enough calcium
and vitamin D, it may lead to softening of the bone in
children and a loss of bone density in adults. Over time, a
range of other problems also may develop as a result of the
body not getting the nutrients it needs ó from skin rashes
and difficulty absorbing lactose to infertility and nerve
damage. People with celiac disease who donít maintain a
gluten-free diet also have a greater risk of developing
several forms of cancer, including intestinal lymphoma and
small bowel cancer.
diet without gluten may seem daunting at first, but you donít
have to manage it alone. For help planning a healthy
gluten-free diet, consult with a registered dietitian who is
familiar with celiac disease. He or she can give you an
overview of gluten-free foods, show you which foods to avoid,
and help you learn to recognize ingredients on nutrition
labels that contain gluten. A dietitian also can offer
gluten-free meal ideas and recipes.
gluten-free products are becoming more popular and easier to
find, including gluten-free breads, pastas and baked goods. If
you have trouble locating gluten-free items at your local
bakery or grocery store, check online. Many companies now ship
these products across the country.
gluten is removed from the diet, inflammation in the small
intestine generally begins to lessen. Complete healing and
regrowth of the villi may take several months to several
years, so maintaining a gluten-free diet is vital for