Celiac Sprue Natural Treatments

Reviewed by Sandy Cho, MD

Also known as celiac disease, celiac sprue is a condition that results in damage to the small intestine when people eat foods containing gluten. The intestine takes in nutrients through tiny villi but when individuals with celiac sprue eat foods with gluten, it triggers an immune reaction instead of healthy digestion. The resulting immune reaction can harm the villi which may lead to malabsorption of important vitamins and minerals.

The following is information on celiac sprue natural treatments.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Symptoms can vary by individual but often include a variety of gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, gas, indigestion, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting and/or unusual stools (floating, bloody or bad smelling).

Celiac sprue can also cause other health problems such as fatigue, malnutrition, anemia, joint pain, muscle cramps, mouth ulcers, osteoporosis, depression, irritability and/or unexplained weight loss.

What Causes It?

While the exact cause is not known, experts believe there is likely a genetic component. It is believed that about 1 in 100 people suffer from celiac sprue but that number climbs to 1 in 22 individuals who have a parent, child or sibling with it (and 1 in 39 who have an aunt, uncle or cousin with it). It is possible that environmental stress can contribute to activating the ailment.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is typically made by a gastroenterologist. Frequently, a blood test is ordered to detect the presence of certain antibodies (ie. antiendomysial and antigliadin antibodies). This may be followed up with the doctor viewing the small intestine with an endoscope and taking a tissue biopsy. One or both of these tests may be done again several months after treatment has begun to make sure improvement has occurred.

How Is It Treated?

Avoidance of gluten is the only treatment for celiac sprue. It is important to note damage to the intestine can occur even if there are no symptoms so education and vigilance are key.

Meeting with a registered dietitian who has a specialty in celiac sprue can be very helpful in learning how to shop and eat.

What Should Be Avoided?

Anything that contains gluten should not be eaten (or drunk in the case of beer). This includes foods that have wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut and some oat products as ingredients.

The list doesn’t stop there, however. Some processed foods can also have gluten and it may not be obvious (“modified food starch” for example). Certain vitamins and medicines can also be culprits and should be studied carefully before taken.

Cross-contamination is another concern. It can happen anywhere from the factory where machinery is shared among various products to the kitchen where gluten-free food may come in contact with non-gluten free crumbs from the toaster or cutting board.

What Can Be Eaten?

Plain meat, poultry and fish along with fruits, vegetables and rice are naturally gluten-free. Flours made from soy, rice, corn or potato are also generally safe as well as certain grains like buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa. (However, check the packaging carefully to make sure the labels say they have been manufactured in a gluten-free facility.)

Should Additional Vitamins & Supplements Be Taken?

Malnutrition can be a side effect of celiac sprue due to the malabsorption of nutrients. (This can be a particular concern in children who may experience a delay in growth and pregnant women who might have a greater chance of suffering a miscarriage or having a baby born with birth defects.)

Levels of calcium, iron, folic acid, vitamins D and B12 and others may be deficient in people with celiac sprue. Working with a healthcare professional can help determine if or when supplementation is needed.



Written by Kristen Stewart

Natural Health News and Articles

A Gluten-Free Diet Helps Manage Autism

Many people who go to the Natural Pharmacy in Ocean, New Jersey, feel defeated by traditional medicine and hopeful that owner and pharmacist Eric Sauer can offer them a holistic solution. Natural Pharmacy Office Manager Nancy Filos can identify with these people because she used to be one of them.  

Nancy and her husband, Joe, learned that their daughter, Jessica, had autism when Jessica was 2 years old.   As a baby, Jessica wasn't responsive when someone called her name. She didn’t make eye contact with others and she played by herself. Nancy said they initially thought their daughter had an auditory condition and had her hearing checked.  

Doctors diagnosed Jessica with Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified, a category of autism used to describe those whose symptoms fall outside other types of autism like Asperger syndrome.  

When Jessica got older, doctors put her on Concerta, an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication, to try to reduce the repetitive “TV talk” and improve her ability to focus.   They started her on the minimum dosage and then increased the dosage each time Jessica returned for a checkup. Nancy said they raised her dosage four times in one year.   The medication didn’t work though. The only thing it did was make Jessica look like she was sleeping with her eyes open.   “It made my bright girl who sings songs all the time unrecognizable. She was like a zombie,” Nancy said.  

Nancy and Joe continued the medication during a trial and error period of about a year, but they were getting frustrated.   They trusted their doctors, but at the same time they were watching the medication silence their daughter.  

“I could just see my daughter slipping away, and it broke our hearts. We wanted and deserved more. Jess deserved more,” Nancy said.   She began researching holistic options like homeopathic medicine. A friend recommended that she go to the Natural Pharmacy to see Eric. The Natural Pharmacy integrates traditional pharmaceuticals with holistic therapies to provide safer options with fewer side effects.   She made an appointment with Eric in 2008 when Jessica was 10 years old. She brought Jessica to the appointment so Eric could see her symptoms firsthand.  

Eric explained the importance of a gluten-free diet for children with autism because they are less able to tolerate gluten. The inability to correctly digest gluten can affect the severity of the autistic symptoms. Eric said autistic children need to heal their gut first to reduce the effects of the condition.   Eric also recommended an enzyme therapy plan for Jessica that included a protease formula to clean the blood, fish oil for memory, digestive enzymes to help the body better absorb nutrients and a probiotic to help heal the gut.  

Enzyme therapy helps in the digestive process and allows the body to better preserve its crucial metabolic enzymes used in detoxification, infection-fighting and cell repair.   Nancy said that within a week of putting her daughter on a gluten-free diet and an enzyme therapy plan, she saw a difference. Jessica did less TV talking, had better eye contact and focus, was more patient and was willing to be more social.  

“Eric taught me that you need to heal the body before you heal the child,” she said.   He helped Nancy wean Jessica off her medication and Jessica has been medication free since 2008. She is still on a gluten-free diet and an enzyme therapy plan. At 13 years old, Jessica continues to grow and become more self-sufficient.  

Every day she makes her school lunch, which includes Nutella on gluten-free bread, grapes, cucumbers or strawberries, a gluten-free dessert and a bottle of water. If she reaches for a food that contains gluten, Nancy gently reminds her that “Eric says no” to that snack. Nancy said that they allow Jessica to have treats, such as pizza on Fridays, and that her diet is probably about 90% to 95% gluten-free.  

“As she’s grown and developed and matured, I’m finding out what works and that doctors aren’t God and traditional medicine isn’t necessarily the best way,” Nancy said.  “God led me to Eric and then he gave me the foundation to help get Jessica better. I am forever in his debt for teaching us all how diet and enzyme therapy is the cornerstone for a better life.”   

She said that as Jessica is getting older and better understanding her environment she wants to be more of a participant. She doesn’t need the medication for that.  

Jessica reached a milestone earlier this year while at Disney World with her parents, her twin sister, Heather, and her brother, Morgan, 14.  

This year, the family’s third trip in the past three years, Jessica was able to go inside the T-Rex Café for the first time. In previous years, Jessica became too overwhelmed by the noise and stimulation inside the interactive family restaurant.  

This year though, Jessica eagerly anticipated the February 14 lunch reservation and then thoroughly enjoyed the dining and entertainment experience. Nancy said it made her cry. “It really was the most amazing Valentine’s Day gift I’ve ever gotten.”  

“I know that I’m doing well by her,” Nancy said. “Every time she looks me directly in my eyes and says, ‘I love you,’ it is positive affirmation that the course we’ve chosen is the right one. There is nothing more fulfilling as parents than to see all your children laughing and participating fully in life.”  

Learn more about the Natural Pharmacy at  

– By Jessica Braun   Jessica Braun is a writer and an editor at WholesomeOne. She can be reached at jessica.braun[at]wholesomeone[dot]com.