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How Soon Will I Recover From Celiac Disease After Going on a Gluten-Free Diet?

By: Peter  on February 15, 2011

A  large study of 381 celiac disease patients at the Mayo Clinic showed that the intestinal recovery is slow, with only about one third of patients recovering after 2 years. This fraction improves after 5 years, but while a gluten-free diet is very important, many people do not recover completely. As might be expected, people had a better chance of a partial or full recovery when sticking to their gluten-free diet more religiously.


Mucosal Recovery and Mortality in Adults with Celiac Disease After Treatment With a Gluten-Free Diet by  Rubio-Tapia, A., et al., Amer. J. Gastroenterology, 2010, 105, 1412-1420.

12 comments to How Soon Will I Recover From Celiac Disease After Going on a Gluten-Free Diet?

  • Kathy Johnson

    I have been on a gluten free diet for 26 years. After a move 5 years ago, I began to cheet with no symptoms. Now I am lousing hair at a great rate. I think this due to gluten and have gone back to a strict diet. ( Have had blood work that came back normal.)What do you think? Thanks, Kathy

    • Peter

      Hi Kathy,
      You don’t mention exactly what blood work you had done, but note that you must be consuming gluten prior to blood tests for autoantibodies that indicate that you may be celiac. Your physician should have explained the meaning of your blood work. However, since you ask, hair loss can be a side-effect of nutritional deficiency caused by celiac disease: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000233.htm

  • Raven Wallyss

    If there is no significant recovery what is the point? Do the symptoms stop if I follow a strict GF diet or am I just doomed to wait in pain until bowel cancer shows up? I am 49 years old and I feel like I have had Celiac’s since I was a child but it has gone untreated (I have been treated for just about every other autoimmune disease -SLE,Sjogrens,Scleroderma,Mixed CTD,IBS- in the meantime, spending nearly 30 years on prednisone et al. Now I have Type II Diabetes.)What hope do I have now?

    • Gillian

      The blog post made the point that recovery from celiac after going on a GF diet can take a long time, and may not always be complete.
      I understand from your comment that you suspect that you may be celiac but you have never been properly diagnosed or treated for it. This is important, since the symptoms of celiac can often seem similar to those arising from other conditions. While this website is not intended to provide specific medical advice, if I were in your shoes, I would contact one of the celiac support groups in the state where you live (see the Local Celiac Support Groups section under “Resources” on our website) and ask if someone can recommend a reputable MD who specializes in diagnosing gluten-sensitivity and celiac disease. Then, schedule an appointment right away and tell the doctor about your concerns.

      Good luck, and keep your spirits up! Gillian.

  • Tony (UK)

    I am 62 years of age, diagnosed for the second time in June 2007 the gluten free diet has not helped me at all, after four years I had a repeat Endoscopy/biopsies plus bloods to find some improvement to my gut but still have AGA of 42 (equal to 9 months on GF diet)I am HLA-DQ2 Positive.
    My diet is now 100% free from gluten unless I eat outside my own home and Lactose Intolerant.
    If Gluten was removed from my diet completely following diagnosis would my gut be healing quicker? than it has on a four years GF?

  • […] for celiac disease. However, many celiac patients still have evidence of intestinal damage after years on a gluten-free diet (even if they are not experiencing any physical symptoms). Why is this? There is a very small […]

  • Micki

    Tony - many people are truly gluten sensitive ie they have problems with all glutens not just the gliadin in wheat, rye and barley. I think the traditional diet should be called a ‘gliadin free’ one as it is misleading that it is actually gluten free! I wasn’t healing as a coeliac on a ‘gliadin free’ diet and discovered I had non-coeliac gluten sensitivity too and went grain free with much more success. The NCGS genes are never looked for by normal labs and are actually much more common than even the DQ2/8 coeliac ones.

    • Peter

      Thanks, Micki.
      Can you be more specific about which grains you are referring to? I have not found any evidence in the literature that the “glutens” in grains other than wheat/barley/rye/oats have any biological effects. The proteins in rice and corn, for example, share a distant evolutionary history with those in wheat, but the fact that they share the name “glutens” doesn’t mean that they have the same activity.

      Regarding non-celiac gluten sensitivity, I am not aware of any genetic (or other) test for this condition—do you have any supporting information? Even for celiac disease itself, the DQ2 and DQ8 haplotypes are strongly associated with the disease, but not absolutely required. You may also want to read our recent blog about the evolving definition of gluten sensitivity http://ultimateglutenfree.com/2012/02/consensus-diagnosis-gluten-sensitivity/ in which we discuss the uncertainties surrounding this condition. It seems that further research in this area will be difficult until some specific diagnostic procedure can be identified. Perhaps you are referring to anti-gliadin antibodies? These are very common in many people, but they have never been shown to have any biological activity. Antibodies against dietary proteins are very common, and may simply reflect exposure to these proteins, rather than a toxic response.

  • Bridget

    Hello, I was recently diagnosed with celiac (February 1st, 2013) and for the first two weeks I was too scared to try out anything except fruits, veggies, and meat. I felt great. Then I started introducing new gf foods, and my stools have become really dry. A few days ago I’ve started to get ocassional short cramps or pains in my abdomen, gas and constipation. It’s been going on for the past 3 days, but I don’t think I’ve had any gluten exposure. Do you think these symptoms are just part of my recovery or is it an accidental gluten exposure? Do these symptoms indicate that my intestines are starting to work and getting better? How am I supposed to feel?

  • […] addition, since celiac disease can take a long time to heal, some people may even question the ethics of a using a gluten […]

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