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.

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      1. #1 by Green V-Neck on September 14, 2010 - 7:41 am

        Awesome post. Those pictures really drive it home.

      2. #3 by meeshelleneal on September 15, 2010 - 2:45 pm

        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 by zellandyne on September 22, 2010 - 4:03 pm

          I’m glad you liked it! And I hope it’s helpful.

      3. #5 by Sadia on September 16, 2010 - 6:29 am


        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.

        • #6 by zellandyne on September 22, 2010 - 4:07 pm

          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 🙂

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