How is celiac disease treated?

If you have celiac disease, you can't eat any foods that contain gluten (including wheat, rye and barley). You will be encouraged to visit with a dietitian for formal diet instruction. Dropping gluten from your diet usually improves the condition within a few days and eventually ends the symptoms of the disease. However, the villi usually require months to years to complete healing. It might take two to three years for the intestines to heal in an adult, compared to about six months for a child.

You'll need regular medical follow-up visits (usually at 3 months, 6 months, and then every year) and have to remain on this diet for the rest of your life. Eating even a small amount of gluten can damage your intestine and restart the problem.

Following a gluten-free diet means you cannot eat many "staples," including pasta, cereals and many processed foods that contain gluten. There may also be gluten in ingredients added to food to improve texture or flavor and in some medicines. Some less obvious sources of gluten may include ice cream and salad dressing. Cross-contamination is another common source of gluten which happens when gluten-free foods come accidentally into contact with gluten.

If you have celiac disease, you can still eat a well-balanced diet. For instance, bread and pasta made from other types of flour (potato, rice, corn, or soy) are available. Food companies and some grocery stores also carry gluten-free bread and products.

You can also eat fresh foods that have not been artificially processed, such as fruits, vegetables, meats and fish, since these do not contain gluten.

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