Celiac Disease and Sugar: Here's The Scoop

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We all know sugar isn’t good for us. In fact, sugar is the current Public Enemy #1 and is being blamed for the obesity epidemic as well as other chronic diseases.

Yet, despite the mounting evidence of the health consequences of sugar, we continue to eat tremendous amounts of it every single day. 

In fact, according to the USDA the average American eats 160 pounds of sugar every single year. That is more than 5 times the recommended amount from the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The Gluten-Free Food Industry is full of added sugars. In fact, the amount of sugar you find in processed gluten-free food is so high, it convinced the Huffington Post to publish this article about how the Gluten-Free diet isn’t healthy.

When it comes to sugar, no one should over indulge. However, those with Celiac Disease and other autoimmune diseases may be causing themselves far more damage than they think.

Here are the 3 reasons why celiac’s shouldn’t consume sugar.

1. Decrease in Cognitive Function 

Oregon State University conducted a study in 2014 which found that high sugar diets cause an alteration of the gut micro biome that appears to be related to a significant loss of “cognitive flexibility”.

Celiac Disease and Sugar

Cognitive flexibility is your ability to adapt to new situations.

For example, let’s say you were heading to Starbucks to try out some of their new gluten-free foods but found out that your usual location was closed. If you had cognitive flexibility, you would be able to think of another location, map out a route in your head, and get to the next Starbucks with ease. If you lacked cognitive flexibility, that process would be much more stressful and slow. Plus, you probably wouldn’t even understand why you were so stressed out over nothing.  The Oregon study also found that sugar can decrease the ability to learn in both short and long term memory. 


A decrease in cognitive function should be no surprise, especially if you consider the link between sugar and Alzheimers. In addition, we know that bacteria in the gut release neurotransmitters, stimulate the immune system, and effect a range of biochemical processes. 

When it comes to those with Celiac Disease, any decrease in cognitive function is a bad sign.

Brain Fog is a typical symptom for those with Celiac Disease and anyone who has experienced it is well aware of the toll that a slow mind can take.

Typically, individuals with Celiac Disease already have an unbalanced micro biome and sugar can make it even worse by feeding the bad bacteria and starving out the good. Since we know that an altered micro biome is the primary cause of brain-fog, it makes sense that avoiding sugar is the right move. 

2. A Decrease in Gut Mobility and Increase in Inflammation

A study published in 1991 found that in subjects who consumed high sugar diets, digestion time within the intestines drastically increased. 

For Celiac’s this is a big problem for 2 reasons. 

  1. If you have been glutened and your intestinal epithelium is permeable, you spend more time digesting the same food allowing for an increased number of contaminants to enter your blood stream. 

  2. More water is removed from your feces, resulting in bloating and constipation. 
Celiac Disease and Sugar

In addition to these uncomfortable symptoms, sugar can increase inflammation both locally and systemically. Sugar increases inflammation by depleting cells of their energy. Sugar has been strongly linked to inflamed intestines, IBS and Chrohns. 

Inflammation within the gut is something that almost all Celiac’s suffer from and it is important to try and reduce that inflammation as much as possible. 

3. Sugar Depresses Your Immune System

Celiac Disease is categorized as an Auto-Immune Disorder, meaning we already have compromised Immune Systems. Recent studies suggest that when we consume sugar we could be doubling down on that weakness. 


A study conducted at Loma Lina university found that eating 100 grams of sugar (just under the current avg. daily intake) decreases the ability of your white blood cells to kill invasive pathogens by 40%. With our immune systems already working at less than 100%, we are essentially halving our immune systems ability to do it’s job. 

In 1970’s, Linus Pauling found that sugar and vitamin C have a similar molecular structure and occupy the same space in our white blood cells. When we flood our body with sugar, that sugar also floods the white blood cells. With the white blood cells full of sugar, Vitamin C cannot enter the white blood cells and be utilized in an immune response which weakens your defenses. This reduction in your immune response can last for up to 8 hours after consuming sugary foods or beverages. 

The Sugary Takeaway

Sugar is delicious, no one can deny that.

But once you swallow it, it doesn’t do your body any good.

I hope that you learned some information that might help you make a decision on whether or not to remove (or limit) sugar from your diet. For me personally, the risk far outweighs the reward.