Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

A gluten-free diet is essential, and the only treatment for managing celiac disease. In addition to wheat, foods that contain gluten include:

  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Durum
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Malt
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt (a form of wheat)
  • Triticale

Your doctor may refer you to a dietitian, who can help you plan a healthy gluten-free diet.

Once gluten is removed from the diet, inflammation in the small intestine generally begins to lessen — usually within several weeks, though you may start to feel better in just a few days. Complete healing and regrowth of the villi may take several months to several years. Healing in the small intestine tends to occur more quickly in children than adults.

If you accidentally eat a product that contains gluten, you may experience abdominal pain and diarrhea. Some people experience no signs or symptoms after eating gluten, but this doesn't mean it's not harmful. Even trace amounts of gluten in your diet can be damaging, whether or not they cause signs or symptoms.

Vitamin and mineral supplements

If your nutritional deficiencies are severe, your doctor or dietitian may recommend taking vitamin and mineral supplements. You may need to supplement your levels of:

  • Calcium
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K
  • Zinc

Vitamin supplements are usually taken in pill form. If your digestive tract has trouble absorbing vitamins, your doctor may give them by injection.

Medications to control intestinal inflammation

If your small intestine is severely damaged, your doctor may recommend steroids to control inflammation. Steroids can ease severe signs and symptoms of celiac disease while the intestine heals.

Dermatitis herpetiformis

If you have this itchy, blistering skin rash that sometimes accompanies celiac disease, your doctor may recommend a skin medication (dapsone) along with the gluten-free diet.

May. 22, 2013