The treatment for celiac disease is to follow a life-long, gluten-free diet. This allows the small intestine to heal and prevents further damage. There are currently no other treatments for celiac disease. Gluten can find its way into many foods so it is important to learn to read food labels and identify ingredients containing gluten. Some medications may also contain gluten; ask your pharmacist before you start taking any new prescription medications and, just as with foods, always check the label on over-the-counter medications. Your doctor may suggest that you work with a registered dietician to formulate a gluten-free diet. You may also find help from support groups where you can learn from others who are living with the disease.
More than 2 million people in the United States have celiac disease, or about 1 in 133 people. Wheat allergies are more common than celiac disease and usually affect young children, who often outgrow the allergy. In general, food allergies (which can include sensitivity to one or more of the following: wheat, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, dairy, egg, fish or shellfish) affect approximately five percent of children under the age of five and about four percent of people over age five.
Wheat allergy is sometimes confused with celiac disease but the conditions are different. Wheat allergies lead quickly, in a few minutes to a few hours of consuming wheat, to common allergy symptoms such as swelling in the tongue or throat, hives, itchy skin or eyes, gastrointestinal discomfort, labored breathing and anaphylaxis. Celiac disease does not cause allergy symptoms but causes a different abnormal reaction to wheat, leading to damage of the small intestine. However, it is possible to have both celiac disease and wheat allergy.