There is a lot of misinformation out there about celiac disease. From testing and symptoms to diets and treatment. At Gluten Free Society, we aim to empower you with information to help navigate what foods are actually gluten free, as well as what you can do to help heal your body from the damaging effects of gluten.
One question that many people wonder is whether or not you can grow out of celiac disease. We will explore this question below. In short, there is currently no known way to cure or reverse gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or non celiac gluten sensitivity.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that is triggered by the ingestion of gluten. When you have celiac disease, your body perceives gluten as an invader, which causes your body to launch an immune response. This causes inflammation in the intestinal tract and other parts of the body. Systemic inflammation then contributes to further autoimmunity and health concerns. Those who have celiac disease need to avoid gluten, a type of protein found in grains.
Can Celiac Disease Go Away With Age?
As we discussed above, celiac disease is not a food allergy or intolerance, it is an autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, leads to damage in the small intestine. There are several reasons why celiac disease doesn’t go away with age:
- Chronic Autoimmune Reaction: At its core, celiac disease is an autoimmune condition. When a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, their immune system reacts abnormally by attacking the lining of their small intestine. This autoimmune response does not diminish with age. Instead, the immune system remains sensitive to gluten throughout a person’s life.
- Genetic Predisposition: Celiac disease is associated with specific genetic markers (HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8). If someone carries these genetic markers, they are more likely to develop the disease. Since our genes don’t change with age, the genetic risk for the disease remains consistent throughout life.
- Permanent Intestinal Damage: For those with celiac disease, consuming gluten causes damage to the villi in the small intestine. While the intestine can heal when gluten is removed from the diet, any reintroduction of gluten will again lead to damage. This sensitivity remains throughout a person’s lifetime.
- Increased Risk with Continued Exposure: Some people might not experience overt or severe symptoms when they’re younger, but continuing to consume gluten can increase the risk of complications as one ages, such as osteoporosis, anemia, and even certain cancers. So, the disease doesn’t become less significant or serious with age.
- No Cure: As of the date of this writing, there is no cure for celiac disease. The only effective treatment is a strict gluten-free diet. This means that even if symptoms are managed well through diet, the underlying sensitivity to gluten remains.
- Variable Presentation: The symptoms and severity of celiac disease can vary widely among individuals. While some might experience gastrointestinal symptoms, others might have dermatological, neurological, or other systemic manifestations.
Getting an Accurate Diagnosis
Many people may suspect celiac disease or gluten intolerance based on symptoms, and then choose to try to eliminate or decrease gluten to see if it helps resolve their symptoms. However, there are several different tests that can check for celiac disease before you try to self diagnose. Consulting a healthcare professional for diagnosis is important to adequately understand your state of health and next steps. Below are a few of the diagnostic tests for celiac disease:
- Genetic Testing: Genetic testing is a highly accurate look at your genes to understand whether you have a genetic predisposition to reacting to gluten. Learn more about genetic testing here, as well as the limitations of other testing.
- Blood Testing: A blood test is available that checks for certain antibodies. People with celiac disease who eat gluten produce antibodies in their blood because their immune systems view gluten as a threat. It is important to note that you must be on a gluten-containing diet for antibody blood testing to be accurate. It is also important to note that these types of tests can also be misleading, as they can come back falsely negative 10-15% of the time.
- Endoscopy: An endoscopy is when a tube is inserted down your throat so that a practitioner can look at your small intestine for inflammation or damage. They may also take a small biopsy of your intestines. Like blood testing, you must be eating a diet that contains gluten for this test to be accurate. This type of testing is accurate when positive, but missed diagnosis is common. A biopsy finding villous atrophy can also be misleading because other things can cause atrophy beyond gluten, such as parasites, glyphosate, non steroidal anti inflammatories (NSAIDS), proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used traditionally for heartburn, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) used for depression and mood disorders, Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) used for high blood pressure, heart failure, kidney disease and other conditions, and also vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which gluten consumption causes damage to the intestine. Celiac disease cannot be cured, it must be managed with a strict gluten free diet.
An accurate diagnosis is crucial to understanding your path forward, and a trustworthy resource to help guide your journey is essential to properly following a gluten free diet so that you can heal your gut and enjoy a healthy life.