In addition to a gluten-free diet, all patients with newly diagnosed celiac sprue who have clinically evident malabsorption should initially receive a multi-vitamin preparation and appropriate supplements to correct any iron or folate deficiency. Patients with steatorrhea, hypocalcemia, or osteopenic bone disease should receive oral calcium and vitamin D supplementation.
Approximately 70 percent of patients have symptomatic improvement within two weeks after starting a gluten-free diet. The speed and eventual degree of histologic improvement are unpredictable but invariably lag behind the clinical response and may not be evident on repeated biopsy for two to three months. Although a return to normal histologic findings is common in children, half of adults have only a partial resolution on biopsy. If a patient has no response to the diet, the most common cause is incomplete adherence. Persistent symptoms may be caused by coexisting disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, microscopic colitis, or pancreatic insufficiency.
In one study strict adherence to a gluten-free diet reduced the risk of all disease-associated cancers including enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma. Thus, it seems prudent to recommend lifelong strict adherence to a gluten-free diet in all patients with celiac sprue.
Regarding untreated celiac sprue:
Dairy products should be avoided initially because patients with untreated celiac sprue often have secondary lactase deficiency. After three to six months of treatment, diary products can be reintroduced if the patient has no ill effects.