The topic of celiac disease is one that’s close to my heart. Not only do many of my patients struggle with this disorder, but I also have it—kind of. You see, celiac disease runs in my family, and about nine years ago, I eliminated gluten from my diet because I noticed I felt really tired after eating it. Then, five years later, I ran my genetics and guess what? I have the genes for celiac disease. Luckily, I didn’t show the major signs of celiac disease because I had eliminated the trigger. And I currently do not have celiac disease, despite my genetic predisposition.
Do you ever feel “off” after eating something that contains gluten? If so, you may be wondering if you are displaying signs of celiac disease. So, let’s take a closer look at what celiac disease really is, how to determine if you actually are showing signs of celiac disease, and the steps you should take if you suspect that gluten may be causing a problem for you.
What is Celiac Disease?
You may be surprised to learn that celiac disease is often inherited and passed down from parent to child through the HLA DQ2 and DQ8 genes. That said, just because the gene has been passed doesn’t mean the child will develop celiac disease. There are a lot of factors that play into these genetic markers being turned on. As with many autoimmune diseases, the signs of celiac disease are often muffled in the earlier stages of disease. So, it’s not always recognized in earlier childhood. In fact, many people with celiac aren’t even diagnosed until adulthood—between the ages of 40 and 69. 
Contrary to popular belief, celiac disease is not a food allergy, but rather an autoimmune condition in the small intestine. So, if you or someone you know has been diagnosed, cutting certain foods out and adding them back in once you feel better isn’t the route you want to take. Those diagnosed with a wheat allergy, on the other hand, may outgrow their condition over time. Celiac disease, however, is a life-long condition with permanent consequences, if not managed by completely avoiding all gluten exposure.
Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Sensitivity
While genetics play a huge role in celiac disease, there are other contributing factors as to why people may develop gluten sensitivity or show signs of celiac disease. With gluten sensitivity, you may not have the genetic predisposition for celiac disease, but you may display some of the signs of it.
If you suspect this may be the case for you, one possible cause is an overabundance of gluten in the modern-day diet. But it’s not just the gluten. Instead, it’s how the wheat is grown and processed. I mentioned this in another article, but in 1974 Monsanto patented and introduced glyphosate under the name Roundup. 
The product was created to kill weeds; however, the damage it does to the body wouldn’t be discovered until much later. As these products became more popular, so did the glyphosate-related illnesses that seemingly came out of nowhere. As a result, many people associate this chemical with the growth in wheat and gluten intolerances.
Do You Have the Signs of Celiac Disease?
While one of the most reported earlier symptoms is a change in bowel movements, I have seen many people with celiac disease who report experiencing anxiety, depression, menstrual abnormalities, and poor immune function as their first symptoms—without any bowel changes.
When bowel changes to occur, they become loose, greasy, frothy, fatty, and have a very bad odor. These changes are often accompanied by abdominal pain, cramping, gas, bloating, and even sometimes constipation.
Some of the signs of celiac disease that may surprise you include:
- Anxiety 
- Thyroid problems, particularly Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis 
- Estrogen dominance [5, 6]
- Dairy intolerance 
- Headaches 
- Joint pain and swelling 
- Unexplained weight loss or gain 
- Hair loss [11, 12]
- Anemia 
- Skin Changes, such as rash or hives 
- Anxiety and depression 
- Fatigue 
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies 
Now that you know the top signs and symptoms of celiac disease, let’s take a look at what happens once you suspect you may have it by discussing how it’s diagnosed.
How Celiac Disease is Diagnosed
In traditional medicine, celiac disease is diagnosed by taking a biopsy of the intestine, but this is a very invasive procedure. Furthermore, it will only be positive once the disease has progressed to damaging your intestine.
A less invasive way to diagnose is by doing a blood screening. There are multiple blood markers that are often good indications that celiac cisease is present, but these are not foolproof, as the ranges of these tests are vast and conflicting.
If certain blood markers are higher than others, it may indicate that gluten malabsorption caused by gluten intolerance is the problem. Genetic screening looks for the presence of the HLA DQ2 and DQ8 genes is another, less-invasive method of diagnosing. But, as I mentioned, having the genes doesn’t mean you have the disease. If this applies to you, you can avoid gluten to help lessen the likelihood of developing celiac disease.
What Happens Once You’re Diagnosed with Celiac Disease
The first problem in the diagnostic process is that many people don’t make it far enough to warrant a biopsy. So, they get blood screenings but, as I said before, this can be misleading.
The second problem is when people are diagnosed with celiac disease, they are given a pamphlet telling them to avoid gluten. That’s it. There is no education on the crossover of inflammation in the gut and what it does to the gut/brain axis, hormones, etc. The education given is highly lacking.
Sure, you should avoid gluten, but there are hidden sources of gluten as well other contributing factors that people are unaware of. In food, gluten can be found lurking in things you may or may not already be aware of, such as wheat, barley, rye, semolina, spelt, wheat germ, and even oats. Other places to look out for are candy, beer and grain alcohol, chips, certain ground spices, flavored teas, flavored rice, soy sauce, salad dressings, and even veggie burgers (not my veggie burger recipe, though)!
Gluten can also be found in makeup, lotions, sunscreens, laundry detergents, glue, hairspray, shampoo and conditioners, toothpaste and mouthwash, and even certain commonly used medications and low-quality vitamins and supplements, to name a few . It is even found in Play-Doh! For a list of many of the hidden gluten sources, click here.
In short, check all labels for sneaky, gluten-filled ingredients. And don’t be afraid to ask by calling the manufacturer or your pharmacist.
Finally, one last point worth noting is that there is documented overlap between gluten and dairy allergies. So, if you’re diagnosed with celiac disease, you will likely find that also eliminating dairy products will go a long way it helping your body to heal.
The Top 5 Treatments for Celiac Disease
If you’ve exhibited man of the signs of celiac disease or have received an official diagnosis, here are some of the top treatments you should try.
1. Avoid gluten.
The most effective treatment for celiac is to remove all gluten and gliadin, a protein found in wheat, from your diet. Like I said before, this is a life-long commitment. You have to have an in-it-to-win-it mentality. And it’s not just revolving around food. If you only focused on food and didn’t make some other changes, you’ll eventually head back to your doctor with the same lengthy list of signs and symptoms.
And remember that I also recommend eliminating dairy products while you are in a healing phase, as there are documented overlaps of dairy intolerance with celiac disease.
2. Heal your gut.
Once gluten and gliadin have been removed, I’ve found that people see huge relief within three months. But this is just the beginning. The next step is to heal your gut. You can start to do this by avoiding other inflammatory foods.
Celiac disease that goes undiagnosed can wreak havoc on your intestines, causing malabsorption, which leads to leaky gut. When your intestines are inflamed, they’re unable to properly absorb the nutrients and vitamins essential for healing.
This also creates further food intolerances, requiring more food elimination. And further elimination puts you at risk for more deficiency. If your gut is off track, everything follows suit. The gut-brain connection is one I talk about with my patients all the time. Your gut is the foundation of your immune system and even your mental health!
3. Address nutritional deficiencies.
IV vitamin therapy is a great way to combat nutritional deficiencies from lack of intestinal absorption. You may be thinking, “Dr. Pingel, this sounds silly,” but I will say from first-hand experience that this therapy is crucial and so effective. It injects vitamins and minerals directly into your vein, therefore bypassing the intestines for optimal absorption.
For example, say someone has exhibited the signs of celiac disease and just found out she has it. She’s been taking vitamins and other supplements for a while now, but still feels crummy, even after going gluten-free and making other lifestyle changes. When she takes something orally, it still has to go through multiple steps before it’s absorbed. And if she already has leaky gut or absorption issues, who knows what percent, if any, of that vitamin or supplement is actually being absorbed by her body. IV vitamin therapy skips those steps and goes straight to the source, giving her body 100 percent of what it needs, right then.
4. Use herbal support.
Other herbs that are great to help soothe and heal gut inflammation are deglycerized licorice, slippery elm, marshmallow root, and glutamine. Taking pancreatic enzymes that break down foods will also aid the digestion process, thereby reducing inflammation. There are a few enzymes on the market that provide extra protection for gluten-sensitive people, in the event they accidentally come into contact with it.
5. Support your body’s stress management.
As with any autoimmune disease, stress (and the resulting adrenal fatigue) can trigger and worsen signs of celiac disease. Stress management is a critical step in managing celiac disease. Why? Well, stress will slow your digestion and nutrient absorption even further, which can halt your progress even after you eliminate gluten.
You should be aware that if celiac disease goes untreated, your body won’t be unable to absorb essential vitamins and nutrients. This causes a slow poison, which may lead to a plethora of health issues, such as:
- Insulin-dependent diabetes
- Psychiatric disturbances, such as schizophrenia
- Severe depression and anxiety
- Increased risk of Hodgkin’s Disease, lymphoma
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Gallbladder malfunction
- Pernicious anemia
- Chronic fatigue
- Thyroid abnormalities
- Addison’s disease
- Dermatitis herpetiformis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Raynaud’s phenomenon
If your body can’t absorb properly, it weakens your immune system. This makes you more susceptible to worsening pre-existing conditions, or even to developing new conditions. 
If you suspect you may have celiac disease, please talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and diet. Then, request genetic testing and consider eliminating gluten rom your diet to see if your symptoms improve. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be able to take back your health and feel like yourself again!
- Celiac disease is not a food allergy—it’s an autoimmune condition that warrants life-long changes.
- The first signs of celiac disease may vary from anxiety to headaches to bowel problems.
- People who remove gluten and gliadin typically notice major improvements within three months.
- Other steps you can take to treat celiac disease include healing your gut, addressing nutritional deficiencies, using herbal support, and supporting your body’s stress management.
- If celiac disease is left untreated, you can develop many other health issues, including more autoimmune diseases.