Can Celiac Disease Kill You?

By: David Meine

| November 11, 2021

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease. It is triggered by consuming a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye. For those with celiac disease, the immune system sees gluten as a threat. Then it will begin to attack it. This damages the villi of the intestines, which damages the intestinal wall and can lead to leaky gut issues. This means it’s nearly impossible for the body to properly absorb nutrients. But can celiac disease kill you?

Celiac disease is genetic. It is often linked to other autoimmune diseases, like type 1 diabetes and thyroid disease. If left untreated, those with celiac disease may be at risk for serious health consequences. Currently, there is no cure for celiac disease.

Who Has Celiac Disease?

Approximately 3 million (or 1 in every 100) Americans suffer from celiac. However, actual numbers are probably much higher. It’s believed that 83% of people with celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Unfortunately, it takes about 6-10 years to be correctly diagnosed with celiac disease in the U.S. Celiac does not discriminate; it affects all races, ages, genders, and ethnicities. 

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Symptoms for celiac disease vary greatly. Some of the symptoms affect your digestive system. For example, this includes things like diarrhea, fatigue, bloating and gas, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and constipation. Weight loss may also accompany these symptoms. 

Symptoms can be misleading, however. More than half of all adults with celiac disease have symptoms that are unrelated to the digestive system. These may include anemia, osteoporosis, itchy skin rashes, mouth ulcers, headaches, fatigue, numbness in the hands and feet, cognitive impairment, and joint pain.

Can Celiac Disease Kill You?

If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disease like celiac, it is normal to question if it will affect your lifespan. But can celiac disease actually kill you? The truth is that for most people, celiac disease is not fatal in the way we usually think of fatal diseases. In other words, it won’t progress until it ultimately kills you.

However, the sobering truth also is that, according to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, if you don’t receive proper diagnosis and treatment, celiac disease is ultimately fatal in 10-30% of people who suffer from this disease. 

The good news is that we live in an age of modern medicine. Luckily, most people are able to control their celiac fairly well by avoiding gluten.

So, although there is no cure for celiac disease, if you avoid gluten and make healthy lifestyle changes, it’s not true that celiac disease can kill you. It doesn’t have to affect the length of your life. And, with proper diet and lifestyle protocols in place, it doesn’t have to affect your quality of life, either. 

Proper Treatment for Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is challenging because there is currently no cure. In addition, the only treatment is to abide by a very strict, gluten-free diet. Eating gluten-free is more difficult than simply avoiding wheat products like bread. Gluten is in many food products that you might not suspect, things like barbecue sauce and salad dressing.

Many people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease are highly motivated to avoid eating gluten. This is because when they do, they pay for it by feeling really sick. In my book, Eating to Live: Unlocking the Leaky Gut Code, I talk about ‘Finding Your Why.’ If you have celiac, your ‘why’ is pretty clear. You want to avoid the pain that accompanies eating gluten.

Celiac Disease and Gut Health

Here at More Than Healthy, we believe that the key to health and wellness is directly linked to the health of your gut. If you have celiac disease, the health of your gut has been compromised. At this time, there is no cure for this chronic condition. You will have it for the rest of your life. But, if you can heal some of the damage that has been done to your gut, you may be able to stave off some of the harsher symptoms. You can also keep other conditions that are often linked to celiac at bay. 

In order to start healing your gut, you’ve got to remove the things that are causing it harm. The full list is different for everyone and will be very individual to you. But, if you have celiac, gluten is something your body is obviously very sensitive to. Sugar is also something that likely causes harmful inflammation in your gut

We highly recommend an elimination diet protocol. This is the best way to determine exactly what you need to do to heal your gut. For more information on this, and to find out how we can help guide you through this process, visit our website.

Celiac Disease Testing and Diagnosis

If you suspect you or someone you love is suffering from celiac disease, it’s important to see your doctor. Your physician can screen for celiac with a simple antibody blood test. Sometimes they combine this with a genetic test. Additionally, a small intestinal biopsy may be needed for confirmation. Proper diagnosis and treatment are very important when it comes to celiac disease.