Gluten is Poison

Gluten is poison…does that sound like an alarmist statement? For those of us living with celiac disease it is not alarmist, it is our truth. And for us it is a daily refrain that guides us and keeps us safe.

Let me be clear — celiac disease is not a food allergy, nor a sensitivity or a lifestyle choice. It is a genetic disease delivered to us in the form of a diagnosis that we did not ask for but nonetheless received. Celiac is an autoimmune disease that if left untreated can lead to other serious diseases. Such as cancer, anemia, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, heart disease, osteoporosis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, depression and many more. Rather than letting these realities get us down we prefer to consider that celiac disease is among the few diseases that is treated without medical intervention. The treatment is lifelong, strict adherence to a gluten free diet. To a person with celiac disease gluten is poison. Gluten destroys the villi lining the proximal small intestinal wall.  Therefore inhibiting our body’s ability to absorb the nutrients that sustain life.

A bit about what the villi do and why they are so important

It may sound strange to those without celiac disease, who have the luxury to make food choices on the basis of taste – but to a person with celiac disease nutrient content and absorption are criteria that supersede taste. In the years leading up to diagnosis, many of us lose weight uncontrollably, and not in an attractive way, but in a muscle wasting, hair loss, pale skin and gums due to anemia way. We understand intimately that unless the nutrients from the foods we eat are absorbed, our bodies will starve. At the clinical level, absorption of nutrients in the small intestine and their delivery into the bloodstream is a complex chemical process. The small intestine is the site of most nutrient absorption. The inside surface of this organ contains numerous folds, covered by very thin, long projections on the inside of the intestinal wall called villi. These projections are in constant, wave-like motion, sweeping the inner intestinal space for nutrients. Their purpose is to increase the absorptive potential of the small intestine by increasing its surface area. On each villus are even tinier microvilli — these are the site at which absorption occurs. What makes this whole absorptive process so complex is that microvilli are nutrient-specific; sugars are absorbed by one type, amino acids on another. There is a large number of absorptive points within the small intestine. Inside each of the villus is a network of capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in your body. Nutrients are taken up by the capillaries and delivered to arteries and veins for transport to body organs. This system works well for non-celiac persons.

Gluten exposure causes an autoimmune reaction that results in the immune-mediated destruction of villi and micro villi lining the small intestine. Blunting of villi results, this can occur within days of consistent gluten exposure. Such a loss of this important structure results in an inability to absorb precious nutrients. In other words, gluten is toxic to us. That sounds like poison does it not?

That is one of many reasons I was so dismayed when I read an article published in the Washington Post titled “How I told my happy, healthy daughter about her medical diagnosis”. The 11 year old girl, about which this article was written, had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and occasional stomach aches. The mother authored the article in which she describes a reluctance to having her child tested for celiac disease. Why? It is not clear, but seems to stem from a dread of loss of innocence or perhaps the necessary change in lifestyle. Once tested the family found that the daughter did indeed have celiac disease.

The author wrote “Nine months later — after several blood tests, a visit to the gastroenterologist and a biopsy — here we are. We were officially part of the celiac people. It was my daughter’s gastrointestinal system we were talking about, yet it was me that felt punched in the gut.”


Instead of discussing it with her child immediately, the mother put it off, withholding the diagnosis for several weeks. Despite continued warning symptoms, persisting over 9 months and several weeks, the mother continued to give her child gluten. In spite of knowing  that gluten is a toxin to those of us with celiac disease.

She wrote “The days flew by and we all indulged in a gluttonous gluten-fest.”


I wonder whether this mother, or any mother, would deprive their child of the only treatment available if they were diagnosed with another disease? What about cancer? Or diabetes? Would the mother withhold insulin in order to prevent a loss of innocence and a change in lifestyle? Why is celiac disease different? Let me be clear:

Failure to administer a gluten free diet to those with celiac disease is exactly the same as withholding insulin from a diabetic.

This is a loving mother who thought she was not harming her child by knowingly feeding her the one thing making her sick. Gluten is poison to celiac “people” as she put it. And the only defense we have and the only chance we have to stay healthy is to avoid all contact with gluten. Living a gluten free life to maintain optimal health is not something to be mourned. It is our only medication, it works, and we are lucky to have a way of regaining our health. One  that not only can we control, but also does not require a prescription.

For all of us with celiac disease let the world understand once and for all that for us gluten is poison.


Gluten is Poison
Article Name
Gluten is Poison
Gluten is poison...does that sound like an alarmist statement? For those of us living with celiac disease it is not alarmist, it is our truth. And for us it is a daily refrain that guides us and keeps us safe.
Publisher Name
Gluten Free Therapeutics
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Comments ()

  1. Katie G says:

    A precise article, thank you!

  2. Susan Basel says:

    It sounds like a case of Munchosin by Proxy. Something is wrong with this Mother.

  3. GFT staff says:

    Due to a question that came up on our Facebook page in relation to this article we thought we should address the issue of morbidity rates for celiac patients. The studies we have read have indicated that celiac patients have the same morbidity rates as that of the non-celiac population if exposure to gluten is eliminated. However the story changes when gluten is consumed. The inflammation in the gut is only one of the many issues for untreated celiac disease. Malnutrition due to the damaged intestinal villi and the possible triggering of other related or linked autoimmune diseases is the cause of a higher morbidity rate with untreated CD. Which is why we urge folks to get diagnosed and take their gluten free diet seriously. It is the only management for celiac disease available.

  4. lisa says:

    most parents/families don’t want to admit their child is this way mine didn’t don’t yet this is what i deal with everyday of my life and i have friends that act this way and don’t want to admit/deal with this,so there is a alot i don’t do or eat because of this and these situations and people.

  5. Donna Hatcher says:

    I as an adult almost killed myself by eating food with gluten!

  6. TChorn says:

    I’m not sure I would make the bold statement about gluten and insulin, but I get it. The urgency is definitely there.

    1. Cole says:

      I am sorry but the correlation between the two makes perfect sense without insulin a diabetic could possibly die. A Celiac with gulten posining runs a risk of the same. Example: blood sugar levels = gluten levels

      1. GFT staff says:

        Thank you Cole, I can add that both diseases also have very serious long term consequences if left untreated. That is why I chose that example. People have had years of education to understand how diabetics have to watch and manage their sugar intake. For celiacs gluten is the same. We need to manage it and strip it out our diets to maintain health.
        Thank you for your input.

  7. Ginny says:

    Did I miss something? Why would she harm her child like this. The damage is being done internally. I do not get it.

  8. Maria says:

    Finally something I can share with my family & friends. Very well written and informative. Thanks

  9. Jenna says:

    I would argue the need to transition to a GF diet is something to mourn. It is a significant loss of freedom and choice that many others without Celiac Disease would not understand. So, while it makes me happy to have a non-medicinal treatment to address this disease, I still struggle to accept this lifelong fate at times. So let people mourn if they need to, but grief is no reason to not pursue treatment or withhold treatment from a child who cannot make independent decisions.

  10. Deb says:

    I have this condition. At first it was hard to watch everything that I eat, and going to a restaurant was a huge challenge. Now I know that I haven NO choice, and I feel I am maintaining better health by sticking to a strict GF diet. The many comments can be overlooked, because some people just don’t understand. This is NOT a fad or a Choice.

  11. Vivian westfall says:

    Grest article thanks

  12. Gretta Saunders says:

    I am a 66 year old celiac grandmother. Gluten free for almost 10 years and doing well, now. Several years ago my 13 year old granddaughter was also diagnosed. Her parents refused to accept her “diagnosis”, rationalizing that “it was all in her head.” Over the years, she has had multiple broken bones, etc., associated with celiac disease. Now married for two years, she recently suffered a miscarriage. I am a grandmother suffering in silence as I recognize the progression of this disease and my words of concern fall on deaf ears, because they think that it is all in my head too. I write this hoping that “people” will wake up, an accept this malady for what it is. Left untreated – it is a killer!

    1. GFT staff says:

      Gretta, It is unfortunate that your granddaughter has been unable to realize the seriousness of her condition. We know that infertility can be one of the consequences of untreated celiac disease. Please feel free to pass along the article in our blog library about the relationship between celiac disease and infertility the link is
      We hope that helps and we wish you and your granddaughter good health. Thank you for your comment.

  13. Barbara says:

    I have frequent episodes of gluten poisonings. Even to day I feel like I have a total body sprain. My face hurts, I have severe left-sided headache. I am full of gas, my stomach hurts, I have almost debilitating fatigue. When dining out even at places that are” gluten free”.

  14. Kevin says:

    I too have recently been diagnosed with CD I have adhered too a GF diet now under my arms and in the folds at the top of my legs have developed a rash and it seems to be appearing all over my chest and legs it’s blotchy I don’t touch it and my GP has no idea I have been told I’m iron deficiency anemia and my B12 level is quite low any ideas would be greatly appreciated

    1. GFT Staff says:

      We have a couple of articles that we wrote that you may find helpful.
      When you go to the blog section of the website you will see there are over 100 articles addressing issues connected to celiac disease. All article are researched by science writers and many of our customers have shared them with their doctors.
      We hope this helps.
      thank you for your comment.

  15. Dee says:

    I am SO grateful to have found why I was so sick how to get better. When I told my family (who have many digestive issues) that I have CD, I thought they’d all go out and get tested straight away. Instead, they kept putting it off. After (now 4 plus) years of telling them CD is hereditary, they STILL refuse to be tested. They show me no respect, as if I am making it all up, even though they saw how sick I became (late dx: I am still sick with other diseases).
    I do not understand this mind set at all. Like this mom who would not help her own child get well. Could someone PLEASE help me understand why some folks will not get tested; How do we get people to see that CD is not some need for a fad diet?

  16. Marion Edwards says:

    Hi I am both diabetic and ceoliac and am finding it extremely difficult. I was diagnosed a year ago. I understand everything stated above as my father dies from stomach cancer when he was 53 years old. HE was not diagnosed with ceoliac but when I spoke with the doctors they have advised that it was probably what he had but as he didn’t know he just continued with a normal diet which included gluten. I am really missing bread as I rally can’t stand the taste of the gluten free type. I have just had my diabetic review and was told that my sugars have raised and that I was eating far too much fruit. All I ever seem to eat at the moment is fruit and salad. Have totally gone off other foods.Can’t be bothered to cook as really don’t feel like eating it. Any help would be appreciated.


    1. Doug says:

      Marion. My daughter was recently diagnosed with celiacs so we made our household gluten free. I’m not a fan of many GF breads so my wife and I have been experimenting with homemade variations and they are much better. I always miss bread so I found another food that interests me and tried to become a “pro” at it- smoking meats. I’m sorry I don’t know how meats affect diabetes, but find something that you love and want to improve (and can eat) , and focus on that. Learning how to be great at smoking meats is the best thing that keeps me sane. Hope this helps.

      1. GFT staff says:

        Doug, this is excellent advice. Thank you for your comment.

  17. Genevieve Gough says:

    I have celiac disease and recently with Pancreatitis. I thought the diagnosis of celiac disease might therefore be wrong I decided to eat a bread roll to test my theory! I vomited for several hours and had diarrhea. The following day I continued to be nauseated, fatigue lightheaded and at times felt I would faint. I’m hoping to feel better to-morrow, but what a lesson !

  18. Jo says:

    My wife’s celiac disease when undiagnosed for years because the symptoms were assumed to be from her Crohn’s disease. Finally, after 7 years of unsuccessfully managing the crohn’s, the gastro doctor ordered the necessary blood test and it was positive for celiac disease. Cutting out gluten has greatly improved her health.

  19. Estie Anna Ninon says:

    Dear GFT;
    I am so grateful to have found your website!
    Yours is the ONLY site that simply & concisely explains the life of a Celiac.
    I’ve termed a contamination of gluten as “Glutenized.”
    Your statement, “Gluten is Poison” to a Celiacite, is perfect. I’m going to print your article & share it to my family. Everyone in my world believes that I’m a “Drama Queen” It’s so discouraging.
    Thank you so much. Is there a support group I can access?
    Estie-a fellow Celiacite.

  20. Laura says:

    I ate at a work party today and shortly after eating, I started to feel anxious. I did have a sandwich on gluten free bread, but wonder if there may have been contamination. My intestines feel inflamed and tight and I feel brain fog and depressed.i have insomnia for a night and just feel out of it. My brain and gut feel very connected. I also urinate more frequently and have an increased pulse.

  21. Judy says:

    I understand this mother over the years Dr.s have made so many mistakes diagnosing my different illnesses.until I had an attack I didn’t believe him.also,he failed to tell me how serious it is, and didn’t send me to a dietician.

  22. Angel says:

    I have been diagnosed gerd almost 5 years ago, i kept on having heartburn and indigestion. Doctors keep on prescribing meds to suppress my acid and one day i come across about cris kresser article and found out that proton pump inhibitors could harm me if using it for a long time! So, i tried to follow the gluten free diet hoping that it may help because i read some testament by other people that following gluten free diet stop their bloating works like a miracle to me! All my symptoms disappear! So, i once tried to consume food with gluten again after few long years and all symptoms back very badly its like im back to zero again and it makes me convince that i might be having celiac disease although i didnt have a proper test done yet. My aunt committed suicide for depression because whenever she eat she has all those symptoms i had experience..bloating burping chest pain and anxiety..doctors treated her only for anxiety and the meds she took for it makes her commit suicide. If she had only find out about celiac disease maybe she could have avoided the tragic suicide..

  23. Maureen Kent says:

    Good site. Thank you. I am Celiac for 15 Years. My only symptom was fatigue. This past year I have not been really strict with being totally GF. On March 12 I got violently ill with severe pain, abdominal swelling, nausea and vomiting for about 8 hours. Went to ER twice and family Dr. Initially they thought gallbladder or bowel obstruction however ultrasound showed no gallbladder issues. Having X-ray and CT scan Monday. Recent ER dr. says it’s my Celiac however I’ve never had symptoms before. I have not been eating gluten since March 12 however I continue to have these attacks every 4 or 5 days. It’s horrible and makes me afraid to eat. Don’t know if other people have such violent attacks if my condition is related to my Celiac.

  24. Roberta Tripp says:

    Advice from a registered dietitian who diagnosed herself with celiac in 2005 and had it officially confirmed through blood tests and biopsy: buy and use a bread machine that is exclusively for bakiong gluten free items and flour and mixes. You will be spoiled and never look back at a shelf or freezer full of bricks masquerading as bread. *I am not affiliated with

    1. GFT Staff says:

      Great tip Roberta, thank you.

  25. Angela Lalum says:

    Is it possible to feel glutened a few days after consuming homemade food that your unsure of the ingredients? I felt tired from the family bbq and fatigue. Monday I felt nausea and Monday I’m having fire stools and flaming diariah. The bbq was Saturday and I ate the foods that I thought would be gluten free such as homemade beans,fruit coleslaw and 2 plain hot dogs without the bun. I even gave the trip tip to my husband and didn’t eat it because he said the marinade was teriaki flavored which has wheat. I need one of your gf test kits.

  26. Sarah B says:

    Withholding insulin is FAR FAR more dangerous than feeding gluten to a coeliac. I say that as a type one diabetic and coeliac. Yes the long term complications of untreated coeliac disease are serious, but withholding insulin from a diabetic patient would result in death within days (weeks at best). And that is 100% the end result, not a possibility. Please do not equate the two.

  27. Robyn S says:

    Angela, yes it is possible to feel glutened from only traces of gluten. A BBQ is a dangerous place: so many left over bits of food from everything that have ever been on it! Plus if other people are making the food, do you trust that they read ALL the ingredients of everything they put in their food? How clean was their chopping board? Their utensils? You really do have to be this picky to avoid gluten!!
    I basically don’t eat out now. Getting glutened is not worth the social niceties. Or conversely the social niceties are not worth getting glutened for – take your pick 😉
    And yes, sauces can have gluten in them. Unless the person making it for you is a total Gluten-Free Nazi (like me!), then the X-Files was right: Trust No-One.

  28. Susan Herring says:

    I have just been diagnosed with CD. The more I read the worse it sounds. I don’t know where to begin getting my kitchen GF. And if I do How do I cook for my husband and not want it or risk contaminatin? And what about holidays? I am in deep mourning. I want to do good but I’m 57 years old! How do I change my whole way of eating when I will be constantly exposed by it and tempted. And the expense. I’m terrified.

  29. Geoff walker says:

    Hi my name is Geoff,Iam 70 years old.Over the years I have suffered with the effects of milk products,eg cramps and bloating,giving up alcohol in my 30s my symptoms improved. with divorce and depression I began drinking again and the symptons returned, beer seems to be my greatest enemy.

  30. Brad says:

    Hi, I am celiac and have more than severe reactions when contaminated. Number one is pain and reflux. I always have to go to the emergency room and often admitted for at least a day. Intravenius pain control and gi cocktails are a must!its an absolute nightmare eververy time this happens. What makes it even worse are the adhesions from previous surgeries and radiation scaring from Hodgkin lymphoma treatment.
    And then the real nightmare is dealing with those judgmental morons that think they know . Some drs are good and others are absolutely clueless!!
    It’s an ongoing dilemma!!! Ugh!!!

  31. Emily says:

    I have had stomach and anxiety problems for a few years now. And I already have a pre-existing condition from open heart surgery as a baby. I started to see a GI doctor for my stomach problems. Extreme hunger pangs, bloating, gas, constant belching, headaches, shortness of breath, insomnia, body pains…had multiple trips to the ER initially thinking it was my heart. All blood work, EKG, and chest x-ray came back normal. Saw the GI doctor-did an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy. He said they didn’t find celiac but that I could be gluten intolerant. I’m scared to eat most of the time…I tried gluten free, then would cheat not knowing if that’s my issue…I’m so scared because of how I feel all of the time. I get upper abdominal palpitations, does anyone else feel that? Or does anyone else’s tongue look weird from gluten? I’ve missed so much work for doctors I thought I’d lose my job. And I’m so afraid to eat because of abdominal pains that makes me feel worse because I’m hungry. Any advice?

  32. Tony day says:

    I have been in pain all over my body for months now. First told it was osteo and old age – but the pain spread to everywhere. Dibilitating. As I. A t eat g,Tuen I am now wondering… there such a thing as gluten poisoning…not just after you eat one piece, but through eating it like ger term….I have cheated I know….even Ovaltine contains gluten bye the way. I would like any opinions you have please

  33. Mary says:

    At age 73 I was diagnosed with celiac disease. After a three day stay in the hospital (for the first time in my life) without a diagnoses I literally walked out and made an appt with my GI dr. Endoscopy-diagnosed. Now at 75 I am still learning what my reactions are from unintended cross contamination. Your article gave me a boost. I can do this. I still battle weight loss and sore joints and rashes. Pinpointing the source is crazy. One reaction you did not mention is for females, vaginal discharge and UTI symptoms. Ugh!

  34. Joyce Prentice says:

    I need a printable version of this to give to my family. There isn’t a print option.

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