Digestive Health

Updated 16 March 2016

Treating coeliac disease

The secret to treating coeliac disease is usually by excluding foods that contain gluten from your diet.

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In moderate to severe cases of the disease, supplementary vitamins, minerals and iron are given, according to the degree of deficiency. In mild cases, such supplementation is usually unnecessary. 

As gluten is widely used in foods, patients need to consult a dietitian to obtain a detailed list of foods to avoid.

Outcome

Avoiding gluten usually allows the person to live a normal life. Patients very rarely don't respond to a gluten-free diet alone, requiring other treatments such as corticosteroids.

In severe cases, however, even after eliminating gluten from the diet, there is some mortality from the disease, mainly among adults. An important cause of death is the development of intestinal lymphoma. A strict gluten-free diet has been shown to protect against this malignancy

When to see your doctor

If you or any member of your family develops symptoms similar to those listed above after eating wheat products, be sure to see your doctor.

This is particularly true if an immediate relative suffers from the disease.

Read more:

What causes coeliac disease?

The symptoms of coeliac disease

How to diagnose coeliac disease

Reviewed by Dr Ismail Moola MBCHB (UCT) FCP (SA) Cert Gastro Phys (SA).

Specialist Physician / Gastroenterologist Netcare Sunninghill Hospital and part time Lecturer Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Wits University.

Previously reviewed by Dr G Watermeyer MBChBFCP (SA), Cert Gastroenterology (SA), Consultant GIT Clinic Groote Schuur Hospital.


 

Ask the Expert

Digestive Health Expert

Dr. Estelle Wilken is a Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. She obtained her MBChB in 1976, her MMed (Int) in 1991 and her gastroenterology registration in 1995.

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