Treatment Guid

Celiac Disease Alert: Six Ways Gluten Can Kill You

“I only cheat once in awhile. You know, like twice a week…”


If you have celiac disease, you damage your body EVERY TIME you ingest gluten. That may sound bad, but it gets worse.

You can DIE from celiac disease in a variety of ways. None of them are fun. Some take longer than others. Some may not kill you per se, but rather they may stop you from enjoying life, make you suffer from chronic pain or limit your potential.

Celiac disease is a deadly serious condition caused by eating what is essentially a poison to susceptible people – gluten proteins in wheat, barley, rye and oats.

Here are just 6 examples how celiac disease from gluten ingestion can kill you:

1. Dehydration – Extreme damage to the intestinal lining can lead to death through dehydration. In this case, the lining that is supposed to hold water in your body no longer functions. The gut actually pulls water from your body. You basically die from diarrhea and leaky gut.

2. Malignancies (Cancers) – Malabsorption of nutrients or consistent damage to cellular structures leads to cancers: lymphoma, leukemia, intestinal, esophageal. Since omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can lead to a number of cancers, other cancers may be caused by celiac disease as well.

3. Pregnancy complications – Nutrient deficiencies can lead to cardiomyopathy in the mother or birth defects in the fetus from folic acid deficiency, protein deficiency, etc.

4. Immunodeficiency – A weakened immune system can allow common illnesses to become deadly – the flu for example. Other illnesses that should normally be fought off are not.

5. Autoimmune diseases – Celiac disease, if not diagnosed and treated early, causes the body to react to other things in the body. As the body tries unsuccessfully to attack and remove gluten (because the person keeps eating it), the immune system stays on a heightened alert and starts attacking other things.

6. Malnutrition – Any health problem that comes from malnutrition of any one or more nutrients that lead to death can be caused by celiac disease. A broken hip from osteoporosis that does not heal is one such example. Another can be dementia from vitamin b12 deficiency.

These are just six ways celiac disease can kill. They are not all of them and should not be taken as an inclusive list.

“I’m just gluten sensitive. I don’t have celiac disease.” A disturbing trend is the use of the term “gluten sensitivity” as if this is a separate issue from celiac disease. The truth is that celiac disease is a form of gluten sensitivity, which is defined as any adverse health reaction to gluten. Celiac disease is a spectrum disorder, with very mild symptoms on one end and death on the other.

Also, celiac disease tests are not as specific as once thought. You can test negative one day and positive three months later. Just because you do not have intestinal damage today, does not mean you will not in a year, two years or five years from now and be classified as having celiac disease. Until that point, you may be classified as gluten sensitive if gluten gives you symptoms.

Malabsorption of nutrients occurs before intestinal damage can be seen under a microscope, so you may have symptoms from nutrient deficiencies for years before your doctor sees villus atrophy or enough damage has occurred that one of the tiny biopsy samples contains it.

If you have celiac disease it is important to understand that the gluten-free diet is the complete elimination of gluten from the diet. That said, the gluten-free diet is just the first step toward wellness. The next step is determining any health problems that have arisen and treating them. The final step is ongoing identification of health problems that arise in the future to determine how to treat yourself.

You can find a list of symptoms that are related to celiac disease in the Symptom Guide. To determine whether nutrient deficiencies are causing your problems, subscribe to the Gluten Free Works Health Guide. This website will give you a complete understanding of gluten, gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, the symptoms of celiac disease, which nutritional deficiencies cause each problem and the dietary sources highest in the missing nutrients.

Author Information: John Libonati, Philadelphia, PA
President-elect, Celiac Sprue Association (CSA).
Editor & Publisher, Recognizing Celiac Disease.
John can be reached at

About John Libonati

Author Information: John Libonati, SW Florida Publisher, & The Gluten Free Works Treatment Guide.
  • lindee says:

    Oats do not contain gluten.

    • Beulah says:

      While oats do not contain gluten, if they are cross pollinated with barley in nearby fields this hybrid often contains gluten. Also there are similar proteins in oats that cause the same effects. In fact, the symptoms can even be worse than eating wheat, rye or barley…I have experienced the effects of oats first hand and it isn’t nice.

    • vera says:

      Oats contain avenin which is similar to gluten. It can and does most definitely does cause the same reaction as gluten for many coeliac sufferers. I was diagnosed in 1957 and have always been told to avoid oats which I did until coeliac uk said it was ok to eat gf oats. How stupid was I to believe them, made me very ill.

  • Jessica says:

    Oats become contaminated during processing. Therefore, they contain gluten unless they are marked certified gluten free.

  • heather says:

    Oats can be cross contaminated in the field where grown

  • Cinie says:

    Is very interesting, when I had “gluten free” oats they make me very ill too. But vhen I was buy normal granola not gluten free, then I was feeling very good lots of energy and no terrible symptoms as I havewith gluten free one. Can someone answer me that?
    Apart from business reasons as everything is marked as gluten free is cost fortune. Thx

    • Different strains of oats affect people differently. Some are close to benign. Others cause symptoms as bad as wheat. The “gf” oats may have been a strain that elicits symptoms. The granola may cause less symptoms, or you may notice symptoms down the road instead of right away.

  • John says:

    I have celiac disease refractory type 2 it is serious and deadly. People who have this disease should respect it, at the moment I am having to travel back and to the continent for treatment and hoping this may help me. However I will not know until later on in the year. So good luck and keep healthy and respect this disease. Stay on gluten free food.


    A Celiac

  • Connie says:

    Does having Celiac mean that I should only eat certified gluten free food? Except for 2-3 known cheating events and several accidental gluten ingestions, I am diagnosed and gluten free for 3.5 years. Snacks labeled gluten free have been really helpful. Now I’m wondering if less than 20ppm is satisfactory?

  • Marie Brasseit says:

    If the blood test for Celiac is negative, can you still be positive and actually have

    • Hi Marie. Yes, this happens all the time. It is called a false negative. The blood test basically measures antibodies. If the antibodies are high enough, the assumption is that an intestinal biopsy will discover damage consistent with celiac disease. So, the blood tests are not pass / fail. In addition, you can be “negative” this month and high positive next month, if your immune system starts producing large amounts of antibodies. Doctors are supposed to perform the blood test every several months if symptoms persist, but since most do not understand how the tests work, they only test once and say “you don’t have it.” You can read more about the tests and diagnosis here.

  • Kathy says:

    Ok I have been taken all the Vitamins the Doctor said I should take (over a year now) but I still don’t feel any better, no energy and very belly very swollen, but no belly aches! I just swell up, legs, and stomach do you have any suggestions for this? Yes I have Celiac!

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