May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month!

As a pharmacist that is diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I am making it my goal this month to let our patients know a little bit about the disease and how I have benefited from the use of Low Dose Naltrexone to help me get back to feeling a bit more like myself.


Did you know that ~1.3% of the population of the United States has Celiac Disease? This is roughly 1 person in every 133 people. 

Even more shocking is that 83% of patients with Celiac Disease are undiagnosed and continue to eat gluten. This is due to the fact that half of patients don’t have any symptoms at all and other patients may be misdiagnosed with a different disorder or disease based on their symptoms.


So what is Celiac Disease?

It is an autoimmune disease that’s triggered by eating gluten. This results in damage to the small intestine.

When a person with Celiac Disease eats gluten, the immune system sees gluten as a threat and works to stop the threat. However, the immune system ends up attacking the villi of the small intestines instead. Damaged villi make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients, leading to malnutrition, bone density loss, and a vast array of other issues.


What are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?

The most common symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss

AND there are over 200 symptoms associated with Celiac Disease.

Even when patients with Celiac Disease are not having symptoms, they will still have intestinal damage if they ingest gluten.


How Do I Get Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is a genetic disorder. It results from a mutation in a gene. However, many people carry this mutation in their genes and never develop Celiac Disease because activation of the disease requires an environmental trigger.

Most of the time, the trigger is unknown. Some triggers may include viral infections and other illnesses, trauma, puberty, etc.


How is Celiac Disease Treated?

Currently there is only one guaranteed treatment for Celiac Disease. That is a strict, life-long gluten-free diet. 

Gluten is found in all products containing Wheat, Barley, and Rye. Avoiding all of these foods is extremely important to prevent damage to the small intestine. 


What Happens in Untreated Celiac Disease?

The risk of malnutrition, infertility, anemia, low bone density, and other autoimmune disorders (Type 1 Diabetes, Thyroid Disease, etc.) increases significantly as a person with Celiac Disease continues to eat gluten. 


How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?

Celiac Disease is initially identified through a blood test. If these results come back positive, the patient must have an upper endoscopy in order to confirm diagnosis of Celiac Disease.

For more information about Celiac Disease, please visit


So What’s My Story

For about 2 years, I had been experiencing a lot of new health problems, from migraines and alternating constipation and diarrhea to even these unusual bumps on my upper arms. I had experienced a lot of bloating, nausea, gas, and severe abdominal cramps and pains as well. 

I was never really able to find a trigger for these issues. At least not that I could tell. Part of that is probably because gluten was in almost every meal that I consumed… bread, pasta, desserts, you name it. Finally, I decided that I had enough and decided to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist.

After going through the blood test and an upper endoscopy, it was confirmed that I had Celiac Disease. I started on my gluten-free diet in December of 2020.

I spent the next year and a half working on eliminating gluten from my diet. Overall, I felt better. However, I was still having a significant amount of bloating, fatigue, and headaches despite my efforts at maintaining a gluten-free diet.

Enter Low Dose Naltrexone. I learned about Low Dose Naltrexone while working at Central Compounding Center South and Central Pharmacy as the Independent Pharmacy Ownership Resident. 

I learned that it decreases inflammation and can help to decrease pain as well. After doing a bit of research and discussing it with Dr. Jennifer Burch, I decided to reach out to my primary care provider about prescribing this medication to me to reduce the inflammation in my body.

I’ve only been taking it for about a month and I feel SO MUCH BETTER! I was so used to being exhausted at the end of the day and coming home after work, eating, and going to bed. Now I can stay up later! I am not exhausted every single day. I haven’t had a bad headache in weeks. I would still like to see how I feel in a few months, but I really am feeling a lot more like myself.

For more information about Low Dose Naltrexone, please visit the following link:


I hope this shed a little light on Celiac Disease.


Happy May!



Emily Vance, PharmD, RPh.

Independent Pharmacy Ownership Resident/Pharmacist