Celiac disease can be debilitating and uncomfortable. Sufferers have to make strict dietary changes to start treating this disorder.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is actually a type of immune response to gluten. Gluten can be found in many food and dietary supplements, and it is also a part of wheat, barley, and rye, for example. The small intestine gets inflamed and can be damaged because of gluten. Over time, this can lead to malabsorption of nutrients, causing bloating, diarrhea, and weight loss. In the long run, without necessary nutrients, the liver, brain, and other organs can suffer damage. Loss of calcium and bone density, miscarriage, infertility, and cancer are also possible complications of celiac disease. In children, growth and other development can be impacted by CD. Early signs of celiac disease might be stomach pain after eating. People most at risk for CD are people who have family members with dermatitis herpetiformis or celiac disease, those with Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, autoimmune thyroid disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, or colitis, and people with Type 1 diabetes. There is no cure, but intestines can start to heal as soon as sufferers follow a “strict gluten-free diet”; 15% of people with this disease, however, are non-responsive to even a GF diet. Typically, the latter situation is caused by “contamination of the diet with gluten”. Those with nonresponsive celiac disease may have bacterial overgrowth, poor pancreas function, irritable bowel syndrome, or colitis. Rarely, refractory celiac disease can occur. This can lead to other medical interventions besides a GF diet, such as steroids (to reduce inflammation) or a medication for immune suppression. Patients may need to supplement their nutrients with iron, vitamins (B-12, D, and K), zinc, folate, and calcium.1 If a person is already eating a GF diet, diagnosis is difficult. Antibody levels decline, and intestines heal, on a strict GF diet. Some of the diagnostic tests include blood tests (to investigate antibodies in the immune system) and endoscopic biopsy. Doctors will also look for iron deficiency, B-12 and calcium deficiencies, osteoporosis, and thyroid disease.2
The GF Diet
In general, following a strict gluten-free diet is the key to resolving celiac disease symptoms. People with this disorder should always avoid wheat, spelt, triticale, semolina, malt, rye, graham flower, durum, bulgur, barley, and farina. They should also be aware that some products may contain gluten, including processed meats, soups, salad dressings, sauces and gravies, candy, and beer. Oats are also questionable, as they might be contaminated with gluten during processing. Unless a product is labeled “gluten-free”, doctors recommend avoiding it. Foods that are allowed include fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables, some dairy, wine, and spirits. As for grains/starches, allowable ones on a GF diet would include quinoa, rice, tapioca, corn, “gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)”, buckwheat, amaranth, and arrowroot. Today, there are many more options available–and clearly labeled GF–in the grocery aisles.3 While some forms of alcohol are allowed, Dr. Andrew Weil recommends that patients should only moderately use it or avoid it completely. In addition, NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen) should also be avoided. He recommends taking a probiotic and following an “anti-inflammatory diet, including essential fatty acids like fish oil and GLA”. Weil also suggests glutamine supplementation.4