Why does my tummy still hurt?

I'm going to be real here. A lot of coeliacs I know, still have stomach problems despite being on a strictly gluten-free diet. 

There seems to be this story out there that once you cut out gluten, everything will be okay. You'll suddenly be healthy, happy and have more energy than you can shake a stick at. 

For those people who have had this happy outcome - I'm so happy for you, and I'm also insanely jealous.

For everyone else who still has stomach problems - I feel ya.

What's going on?

A few things we know, and a lot of stuff we don't it turns out.

1. Healing time

If you're new to gluten-free life, you might think you'll receive instant healing from a gluten-free diet. Nope. It takes time, in fact, it can take an adult up to two years to recover after stopping eating gluten.

2. Refractory coeliac disease

Some people don't heal (refractory coeliac disease) despite eating a strict-gluten free diet. There's a range of different percentages quoted around the internet, so I can't tell you what the exact percentage is. But mostly what I've read is that it's rare. The good news is that there are some treatments available - e.g. "drug treatments may be needed such as steroids, immunosuppressive drugs, chemotherapy or a combination of these." reference here.

3. Irritable bowel syndrome

I think of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) as coeliac disease's nasty little sister. IBS is literally a pain in the gut. Symptoms include diarrhea and/or constipation, stomach pain and bloating. A gastro-enterologist is the place to visit if you think you have IBS - they can test for it, and will often recommend a low fodmap diet as the first step in management of the condition. A lot of people with Coeliac disease also have IBS #ohjoy.

4. Leaky gut

Leaky Gut Syndrome is something you've probably heard mentioned a lot recently. In mainstream medicine there's a lot of debate about what it is, what causes it and how to treat it. There are plenty of gut healing diets and resources online.  It's hard work sticking to a gut healing diet, but for some people it makes a huge difference to their health. I'd recommend talking to your doctor before changing your diet.

5. Secret gluten

Here's something to think about - are you 100% gluten-free? Cross-contamination can easily occur and gluten can sneak into your diet causing a LOTTTTT of pain. Read more about avoiding cross-contamination here.

6. Something else?

There could be another reason for your sore tummy other than gluten. If you're still experiencing pain, please visit your doctor and try to get referred to a specialist. There are a multitude of reasons why you could be experiencing pain - some minor and some very serious, so try and avoid self-diagnosis or removing foods from your diet without consulting a specialist first.

 

Final words

After a few years of writing my blog and talking to other coeliacs, I've noticed that just about all coeliacs still have stomach pain intermittently despite going gluten-free. But going gluten-free on it's own doesn't seem to be the magic bullet to removing stomach issues all on it's own.

So why does my tummy still hurt? I have a feeling we'll be seeing more research over the next few years that helps find answers to this question. In the meantime, what can you do? Don't ignore it, see your doctor, visit a specialist, and see what they say; stick to a gluten-free diet; and fuel yourself with good quality food, limiting the processed food and eating plenty of nutrient-rich whole foods.