The body’s immune system is designed to protect it from foreign invaders, but when people with celiac disease eat foods that contain gluten, their immune systems attack the lining of the intestine.
This causes inflammation in the intestines and damages the hair-like structures on the lining of the small intestine known as the villi. Nutrients from food are absorbed by the villi so if the villi are damaged, the person cannot absorb nutrients which can lead to malnourishment.
There are no drugs or medications to treat celiac disease. The best thing you can do is change your diet. For most people with celiac disease, switching to a gluten-free diet greatly improves the symptoms, and you may notice an improvement in days or weeks.
A gluten-free diet will be a big change in your life and a necessary one if you have celiac disease. You have to rethink your eating habits, including what you buy for lunch, what you eat at parties, or what you snack on. When you go grocery shopping, be sure to read the ingredient labels carefully to avoid accidental gluten ingestion.
Gluten occurs naturally in wheat, rye, and barley. Most cereals, grains, and pasta, as well as many processed foods, contain gluten. Beers and other grain-based alcoholic drinks can also contain it.
Many basic foods such as fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, potatoes, rice, and most dairy products are naturally free from gluten so you can still include them in your diet.