Celiac Disease: When Cutting Out Gluten Doesn’t Cut It

May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month! We are honored to help all our celiac patients through their trials and triumphs!


Celiac disease is a hereditary condition in which the immune system attacks the gut lining in response to the gluten protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other related grains. It is estimated that about 1% of the population has celiac disease, although lack of screening may mean more people actually have the condition. In fact, it is estimated that 83% of Americans who have celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions.

Celiac disease is not an allergy, which involves IgE antibodies, but it triggers an immune attack on the intestine causing tissue destruction and inflammation. Because we rely on our villi (those finger-like projections in the small intestine) for important enzymes and absorption of nutrients, their destruction results in malabsorption.

For many people with celiac disease, eliminating gluten from the diet isn’t enough to feel completely better. Some people with celiac disease have additional food sensitivities or allergies, while others are depleted of essential vitamins and minerals upon diagnosis. In fact, some celiacs never experience digestive issues. Instead, they deal with symptoms like muscle and joint aches, brain fog and other mental ailments.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with Celiac disease or you avoid gluten because it wreaks havoc on your gastrointestinal system (non-celiac gluten sensitivity), there are plenty of people who still don’t feel completely better after adopting a gluten-free diet. That is why we practice person-centered care. Every body is different and we are committed to getting a full picture of YOUR health. Here are a few things that could be happening:

  • Years of inflammation has caused big time damage to your thyroid, adrenals and intestines. This leads to a weakened immune system. A weakened immune system allows bacterial, parasitic and fungal infections to gain traction in your body. Yuck. Testing for these infections and working to remove them can sometimes be the missing link that eliminates the barrier to optimal healing.
  • You’re eating out and on the go. We know you’re busy. We know it isn’t always convenient to eat and cook at home. We know you might be mourning the loss of your old lifestyle and diet. But the only way you can be 100% sure you’re eating gluten free is to cook at home. Cooking connects us to our families and friends, with the land and with the plants and animals (or not) we eat. It is by re-inhabiting our kitchens and saying no to packaged, industrial, processed foods that we will see our health and environment enter a state of healing quickly and sustainably. Buy that Le Creuset pan you’ve always wanted. Invest in some fancy tupperware for taking your lunch to work. Turn your kids’ meals into works of art. Do whatever it takes to make the experience more enjoyable for you!
  • It’s not just gluten. For celiacs who continue to have persistent symptoms with a gluten-free diet, trying a low-FODMAP diet might be helpful. Celiac disease is caused by a reaction to gluten protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.  Someone who is sensitive to FODMAPs is reacting to the type of carbohydrate in wheat, barley, and rye. FODMAPS are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, causing increased gas, bloating, constipation/diarrhea and pain. Those who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may also have issues with FODMAP carbohydrates. You can read more about this here.

We encourage you to come to one of our patient info sessions or see if functional medicine is the right fit for you by calling 515-279-9900. Our staff would be happy to help address any questions or concerns!