How is Celiac Disease Treated?

The only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet—that is, to avoid all foods that contain gluten.

Once a celiac disease diagnosis is confirmed through a biopsy, the patient is instructed to begin the diet. Improvements often begin within weeks.

For most people with celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet will:

  • Stop celiac disease symptoms
  • Heal existing intestinal damage
  • Prevent further damage

Although the vast majority of children undergo full healing of their intestinal lining, research has shown that the healing may remain incomplete in many adults, even though symptoms may regress.

This can often be difficult at first. However, through support and guidance from experienced celiac patients and a skilled adult or pediatric dietitian, many patients learn that the gluten-free diet can consist of great-tasting food. It just requires some creativity and planning.

What Can I Eat on a Gluten-Free Diet?

A gluten-free diet means avoiding all foods that contain wheat (including spelt, triticale, and kamut), rye, and barley. Despite these restrictions, people with celiac disease can eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods.

Plain meat, fish, rice, fruits, and vegetables do not contain gluten. Eating out can be a challenge as the person with celiac disease learns to scrutinize the menu for foods with gluten and question the waiter or chef about possible hidden sources of gluten.

However, with practice, identifying potential sources of gluten becomes second nature and people learn to recognize which foods are safe and which are off limits.

While medical advice should be obtained directly from your doctor, the information in the free resource below can help you make lifestyle decisions to get on the right track for a healthier and happier life following the gluten-free diet.

Jump Start Your Gluten-Free Diet eBook

How Long Will I Be on a Gluten-Free Diet if I Have Celiac Disease?

The gluten-free diet is a lifetime requirement. Eating any gluten, no matter how small an amount, can damage the small intestine. This is true for anyone with the disease, including people who do not have noticeable symptoms.

Antibody levels take time (sometimes more than a year) to normalize after a person has stopped eating gluten. Your doctor will assess if your intestinal damage is improving satisfactorily.

Who Can Help Me Adjust to my Gluten-Free Diet?

A dietitian, who is a healthcare professional specializing in food and nutrition, can help people learn about their new diet. It is important to find a dietitian who specializes in celiac disease. You can find one at and can learn more about our celiac disease dietitians by visiting our adult celiac disease or pediatric celiac disease team webpages.

Support groups are also particularly helpful for newly diagnosed people and their families as they learn to adjust to a new way of life.

At The UChicago Medicine Celiac Disease Center, we strongly recommend that you first seek a professional opinion before removing gluten from your diet because following a gluten-free diet can make it difficult to diagnose celiac disease.

What Does the Future Hold for Celiac Disease Treatment?

These are exciting times for celiac disease treatment options that go beyond a diet. Research is very active on several fronts. Among the most promising:

  • Pills that, when ingested immediately before a meal that may contain small amounts of gluten, would make the small intestine less permeable to gluten, thus preventing its toxicity
  • Pills that, when ingested along with meals containing some gluten, would break it down (thus, making gluten nontoxic) before it reaches the small intestine
  • Drugs that will quench the inflammatory response of the intestine to gluten
  • Therapeutic vaccines that would be able to restore the tolerance to gluten that was lost before celiac disease struck

Request an Appointment

The information you provide will enable us to assist you as efficiently as possible. A representative will contact you within one to two business days to help you schedule an appointment.

You can also make an appointment with our providers by:

Requesting an online second opinion from our specialists

Filling out an online questionnaire (e-visit) to get a same-day diagnosis and treatment for common conditions.

To speak to someone directly, please call 1-888-824-0200. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.


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Celiac Disease