Healthy Obsessions The Adventures of a Mild Obsessive Compulsive

What Celiac Disease Does to Your Intestines

First, I’m going to show you a few pictures. These are healthy villi; they line the insides of your intestine:

Healthy Intestinal Villi

Distance View of Healthy Villi

Normal Villi

Remember, this is what your intestines are supposed to look like. Kinda like a fuzzy blanket. Or coral.

The villi are what absorb nutrients from food. You need them. If they’re damaged, your entire body suffers. You develop vitamin deficiencies. You may always be hungry, because your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs. Any condition that can be caused by malnutrition… you’re at risk. If your villi aren’t working correctly.

Now, let’s take a look at the intestines of someone with Celiac Disease.

Moderate Celiac Damage

Severe Celiac Damage

Severe Celiac Damage from a Distance

Flattening.  That’s what they call it.

See the villi in the first picture? They look like smushed pasta. Not like a fuzzy blanket. That’s my intestine you’re looking at. Those are my villi. After only eating gluten for three months. Can you see the villi in the second picture? I can, but only barely. And that last picture? I can’t see them at all.

I had several vitamin deficiencies when that picture was taken. Not bad ones. But I had them even though I was supplementing. Imagine how much worse it was for the folks belonging to those other photos.

Celiac Inflammation

For kicks, I’m throwing in another photo. See those red streaks? They shouldn’t be there. That’s the entry to the upper duodenum (aka, intestines). There shouldn’t be any red. That’s inflammation. In fact, my entire intestine was inflamed. Which hurt.

This is why I’m anal about avoiding gluten. It hurts. And it’s so very easy to accidentally ingest. Studies have shown that as little as 20 mg of gluten can cause inflammation. Your average slice of bread has 4800 mg of gluten in it.

It isn’t a whim. It isn’t like avoiding sweets for a diet. One bite will hurt.

If you liked this entry, you might also be interested in:

23 Thoughts on “What Celiac Disease Does to Your Intestines

  1. Pingback: National Celiac Awareness Day | advanced-nutrients

  2. Awesome post. Those pictures really drive it home.

  3. Thank you for putting it so well. I have sent this link to my friends and family to help them understand the drastic effects of what even the smallest amount of gluten can do.

  4. Ouch!

    I was allergic to milk as a child, and my extended family kept being surprised when I was rushed to the hospital after they put “only one teaspoon” of milk in my food. Fortunately, that’s the kind of thing that some people (including me) can grow out of.

    • This is why I have trouble trusting food when I didn’t make it: people not taking an allergy or sensitivity seriously. Even folks who try to accommodate don’t always catch everything. Like dusting the baking pan for a flourless chocolate cake with flour.

      I’m glad you grew out of it; I love dairy 🙂

  5. Pingback: Getting Tested for Celiac Disease | Healthy Obsessions

  6. Pingback: What Celiac Blood Test Results Look Like | Healthy Obsessions

  7. Pingback: Stuff « Jumbled Words

  8. Pingback: Ho many years of heavy beer drinking does it take to destroy all of the villi in your intestines? | advanced-nutrients

  9. Pingback: Explaining Celiac Across a Language Barrier « Healthy Obsessions

  10. Pingback: What Celiac Blood Test Results Look Like » Healthy Obsessions

  11. Pingback: Celiac Disease Doesn’t Go Away « Healthy Obsessions

  12. Pingback: Gluten Free is Such a Fad | Healthy Obsessions

  13. Pingback: Kaia kommer hem » Blog Archive » Celiaki 101

  14. The views of the normal intestines and the glutened ones….. are they at the same distance range? Just curious…….

  15. Celiac disease really is serious. I find that even very small amounts can be a problem (although I find that less than 1/100th of a slice of bread doesn’t seem to bother me at all really).

    That said, you may be interested in something I recently found online while searching on youtube that currently exists and is said to cure celiacs and those with gluten intolerance. It’s called “Gluten Relief” developed by Dr. Wise and I have blogged about it recently…

  16. Rich Brown on February 29, 2012 at 12:07 pm said:

    I was just diagnosed with severe advanced celiac disease and am booked with several specialists over the next month or so. I am adhering to a strict gluten free diet. I was told to be on alert to any slight differences in health and a concern of cancer. Also suppose to start transfusions early next week. I haven’t read anything about life expectancy and am curious with mine being found so late and in the severe state it’s in what can I expect in years of good health?

    • Diana on April 18, 2012 at 8:15 pm said:

      I don’t know. From my reading, it looks like someone with Celiac Disease can live as long as someone without, if they adhere to a strict diet. My grandmother was diagnosed with severe Celiac Disease about 40 years ago, and she’s still going strong at 94.

      Have you learned anything more from the specialists? How are you doing?

  17. Molly on July 10, 2014 at 9:41 pm said:

    Coming out of anasthesia, my doc says to me that the villi look tamped down but was more concerned with my severe gastritis (from H. pylori). I haven’t had my follow up yet but is there any other way to get flattened villi than celiac? The gastritis was cured (based on endoscopy) two years ago but the pain has been ever-present for 15 years.

    • Diana on July 16, 2014 at 6:12 pm said:


      I’m not sure. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were other things that damage the villi. Actually, I’d be surprised if there weren’t. My villi are mostly recovered now, but not completely. I’m still experimenting with different diets, to see if there are other foods causing problems. Maybe check out SCD or FODMAPs to see if either diet helps with the pain.

  18. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease a week ago. My pictures look very similar to yours so seeing them compared to a healthy small intestine was really helpful. Thank you for helping me understand this a little better! I really appreciate you sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation