Why Do So Many Celiacs Take Drugs?

Dr. Vikki Petersen of HealthNOW Medical Center

By Dr. Vikki Petersen

I was reading a position statement from a national celiac organization as regards to making it law that all gluten is removed from medications. While I completely concur, the issue I’d like to discuss involves a statistic that this organization gathered after surveying its members.

They stated that a member survey indicated those with celiac disease take an average of eight oral medications per day. Eight!

Gluten contents aside, when one gets to that number of medications it is known that an adverse drug reactions is definitely occurring – the likelihood is considered 100%.

What I would like to discuss is why celiacs would be, on average, consuming so many medications. They should be following a gluten-free diet that would, theoretically, improve their health dramatically. But apparently that is not the case.

Here are my thoughts as to what might be creating this problem:

Some celiacs are a bit ‘sloppy’ on their gluten-free diets because they haven’t been well educated or they simply don’t notice a difference in their health when they knowingly cheat. Whether you ‘feel ‘ it or not, consuming gluten when you are gluten intolerant is increasing your risk of dying from all causes, especially heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disease, our three leading causes of death.

Due to our poor ability to diagnose celiac disease (95% remain undiagnosed in this country), even those who now have the diagnosis often waited about a decade to find out. During that time their health was so compromised that autoimmune and other diseases developed that are now being ‘managed’ by drugs. While those in this position may feel that drugs are their only option, I disagree. We have seen nice improvements in the diseases caused by gluten, even in those who have suffered for many decades. See #3 below for more information on how we treat this.

Generally speaking the treatment for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity is a life-long gluten-free diet – period. Unfortunately, eating gluten-free alone is usually insufficient to restore health. What I like to call the ‘secondary effects’ of gluten must also be addressed to truly restore optimal health. Such things as ‘hidden’ infections in the intestines, nutritional deficiencies, probiotic imbalance, enzyme insufficiency, the presence of cross-reactive foods, toxic overload and hormonal imbalance must all be evaluated and addressed if found to be lacking. Neglecting this type of follow-up, in my opinion, diminishes the chances of a full recovery and is currently one of our biggest problems in treating the gluten intolerant population.

Those who do follow the diet happily replace all the gluten-containing foods with the gluten-free variety, but don’t take steps to really eat a healthy diet. The bad news is that a gluten-free diet doesn’t necessarily equate to a healthy one. Too often, in order to aid the feeling of deprivation, gluten intolerant individuals throw themselves into overeating the cookies, cakes, breads and other goodies offered by the gluten-free manufacturers. While we are all delighted that such a broad array of food is available gluten-free, it doesn’t make that cookie or cake any healthier for you. These ‘goodies’ should be relegated to special occasions and, instead, the bulk of the diet should be made up of healthy vegetables, fruits, beans, good fat and a small amount of healthy animal protein.

Please pass this post along to others whom you know suffer from gluten intolerance. It’s hard enough to get diagnosed. Once you do and you’re following a gluten-free diet, you deserve to be enjoying excellent health.

What are your thoughts on this?

Do you take more medications than you’d like?

I would love to hear from you.

If your current level of health is not what you would like it to be, please call me for a free health analysis. We are here to help and our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally, so you don’t have to live locally to get assistance.


To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the e-Book: “Gluten Intolerance – What you don’t know may be killing you!”
Nominated Gluten Free Doctor of the Year 2012

8 Replies to “Why Do So Many Celiacs Take Drugs?”

  1. All my life, I have had pain in the abdomen. I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, which to me is just a catchall for those problems that doctors have no clue about nor want to run tests on. I always had a rash, but that rash was now on my face, scalp, and back, leaving scars in its wake.

    About a year and a half ago, I went on a gluten-free diet for two weeks. It was an experiment at that time. The first thing that I noticed was the abdominal pain went away. The next thing I noticed was that, within four days, I no longer had ‘osteoarthritis’ pain. Yes, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

    I brought this all up with my doctor who ordered a colonoscopy and EGD. Since I had GERD, I needed the EGD anyway to dilate some esophageal strictures caused by the GERD.

    Well, the biopsy of my small intestine was inconclusive and they said that I didn’t have Celiac. I didn’t go back on the gluten-free diet until about four weeks ago, one year after the tests were done.

    What made me go back?

    Missing work because I couldn’t wear anything that touched my painful abdomen was the main reason. Needing to be near a bathroom waiting for a laxative to kick in also counted.

    On top of that, I was malnourished. Can you imagine that a person weighing over 200 pounds could be malnourished! It wasn’t that I ate junk food, either. I was hungry all the time, yet I was deficient in vitamins D, C, B 12 and B 6, and Calcium, even though I was supplementing them!

    So I went back to the gluten-free diet and the abdominal pain went away, as did the joint pain. After four weeks, I have also noticed that I no longer was having my horrible seasonal allergies and didn’t require my asthma medications. The GERD and rash went away.

    The end of last week, I noticed that my pin-point stabbing headaches and burning in my feet was gone. My doctor said the burning in my feet was because I was tying my shoes too tight. Now I know that it was from the gluten.

    In all, I am down to one medication – Synthroid. I no longer use my Singulair (allergy medication), Proventil (asthma medication), Flovent (steroid inhaler for asthma which increases the risk for osteoporosis), Protonix (for the GERD), and Neurontin (for the pinpoint headaches). I will be having labs drawn to evaluate my vitamin issues next month.

    I have been urging other people with aches and pains, stomach issues, migraines, etc. to go gluten-free and see if it makes a difference. Even though you may not have the intestinal signs of Celiac disease, you may still have Celiac disease. It does not present the same for everyone.

    I wish doctors would start looking at what people are eating instead of make diagnoses like irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, or neuralgia, which may not be the problem at all.

    I would bet that the majority of people would find resolution to many of their problems by just avoiding gluten.

  2. I take additional medications only because I have other issues that cannot be taken care of with diet. I have only been diagnosed a year with Celiac Disease, but I have a strict gluten free diet and I monitor where I eat outside the home along with any additional things that could trigger it. I try to stick with mainly fruits, vegetables and proteins. I don’t eat processed food if I can help it even if it is gluten free. I’ve changed creams and hair products as well. Even with all of these changes, I still have symptoms and other ailments that won’t go away without medication. I do think there can be additional reasons people take medication beyond them not taking care of themselves properly. I am working with my doctors to take care of my issues, but it isn’t something that is just done overnight.

    1. Hi April,

      So glad to hear you’re taking so great care of yourself! I think that Dr. Vikki’s main point is that she’s helped many people get off of medications by finding what they are also sensitive to. But there are those who cheat, etc. Keep up the great work you’re doing!

  3. I take a ton of vitamins and supplements, do those count? Multivitamins, Vitamin D, Calcium (since diagnosed with osteopenia at a very young age), probiotics, digestive enzymes, etc. As far as actual medication, it’s very little! I do still have to take stomach motility medication because of gastroparesis though…

      1. I had allergy testing done and it only came back as ” Yeast” being a problem. Then I found by the doctor who did the testing you can get many false negatives and false positives, it is only a place to start. I already knew wheat was a problem for me by doing an elimination diet. I still try to watch yeast anyway just in case, but I am faithful about no gluten.

        1. Hi Ginny,

          Well, at least you found something else. Were the tests done by an allergy doctor, or one of the online alternative testing? Some of the online ones are super accurate. I’ve heard of people coming back with multiple sensitivities that really helped them. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s always great to hear from you!


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