Some people may be sensitive to gluten without having celiac disease. This condition, known as “gluten intolerance,” isn’t well understood: people with gluten intolerance experience symptoms when eating gluten-containing foods and they usually feel better after removing gluten from their diet, but they don’t have the damage to their small intestines seen in celiac disease. Current research has not established if there is a clear link between gluten intolerance and celiac disease.
To treat your celiac disease, you must avoid any food containing gluten—namely, anything that contains wheat, rye or barley. You’ll have to give up a lot of grains, pastas, cereals and processed foods unless you find them in “gluten-free” versions (luckily becoming more and more available these days).
There are also a variety of foods you can eat. For example, instead of wheat flour, you can use potato, rice, soy or bean flour. There are also many gluten-free types of bread, pastas and other products in stores, and many websites that offer them. And of course, plain meat, fish, rice and fruits and vegetables don’t contain gluten.
The diet is lifelong—and cheating isn’t an option: even eating a tiny amount of gluten can damage the small intestine. But the good news is that, for most people, following this diet will stop symptoms, heal existing intestinal damage and prevent further damage. Improvements begin within days of starting the diet, and the small intestine is usually completely healed in three to six months for children and young adults and within two years for older adults.