Nutrition Support Once You have Been Diagnosed with Celiac Disease
Celiac Disease and the associated condition Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity is on the rise in North America. Digestive disorders account for many visits to the doctor’s office and Medical Doctors are diagnosing the disease more than in the past decades. I have also seen a large increase in clients experiencing gastrointestinal disorders coming to my practice over the last ten years. Many are choosing to go gluten-free just to see if it makes any difference before coming for a consultation, while others just want me to guide them in the right direction confused about all the information available on the internet. I believe that gluten containing foods have become a problem for many individuals and that there is an increase in people paying attention their symptoms and the effects food have on their body. Thus, greater awareness is highlighting a disease that is greatly on the rise. Acknowledgment of this disease is important but I also want to present the topic of optimizing one’s health once you have the diagnosis of Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.
For those of you that are not certain of what Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity are, here are the official definitions:
Celiac Disease is triggered by consumption of the protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the finger-like villi of the small intestine. When the villi become damaged, the body is unable to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, which can lead to malnourishment.
Left untreated, people with celiac disease can develop further complications such as other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and cancer.
There are more than 300 symptoms of celiac disease, and symptoms may vary among different people. One person might have diarrhea and abdominal pain, while another person has irritability or depression. Some individuals develop celiac symptoms early in life, while others feel healthy far into adulthood. Some people with celiac disease have no signs or symptoms.
These differences can make celiac diagnosis extremely difficult, resulting in 83% of people with Celiac Disease undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity has been clinically recognized as less severe than celiac disease. It is not accompanied by “the enteropathy, elevations in tissue-transglutaminase, endomysium or deamidated gliadin antibodies, and increased mucosal permeability that are characteristic of celiac disease” (Ludvigsson et al, 2012). In other words, individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity would not test positive for celiac disease based on blood testing, nor do they have the same type of intestinal damage found in individuals with Celiac Disease. Some individuals may experience minimal intestinal damage, and this goes away with a gluten-free diet.
Increased Intestinal Permeability
Since research shows that is a varying degree of intestinal permeability with Celiac being far greater while Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity showing very minimal to zero, the fact is the integrity of the digestive tract is essential to maintaining excellent health. In the Celiac Associations website the following is an important quote,” Increased intestinal permeability permits toxins, bacteria and undigested food proteins to seep through the GI barrier and into the bloodstream, and research suggests that it is an early biological change that comes before the onset of several autoimmune diseases. Many holistic healthcare practitioners have talked about “leaky gut syndrome” for years and used diet and supplement recommendations to help their clients optimize their health.
The debate about why there is an increase of digestive disorders like Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity will continue on for years. Whether it is the increase in the amount of gluten grains we consume, the chemicals sprayed on crops, the change in production methods, that we don’t prepare grains in our kitchens properly anymore, we are not genetically designed to consume grain, increased antibiotic use disrupting gastrointestinal integrity and the list goes on. I believe it can be all of those reasons, more or less for each individual. The point I wish to convey is that just avoiding gluten is not going to create robust health. It is the first step then you want to address the following: 1) correct micro nutrient deficiencies (vitamins, minerals, etc.) 2) correct macro nutrient imbalances (protein, fat, carbohydrate), 3) rebalance the microbiome (balance of healthy bacteria/yeast versus pathogenic organisms), 4) expedite the healing of the gastrointestinal lining 5) gently detoxify organs to remove metabolic blocking factors and 6) restore proper immune system function.
Please remember you deserve to experience excellent health regardless of how long you have lived with Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and the diagnosis is the first step on your path to improved health. Visit a holistic nutritionist to help you take the next steps further down the path to optimal health.