Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains and it’s something most of us eat on a daily basis. But for people suffering from celiac disease, gluten acts like a toxin, causing damage to the villi tiny hair-like projections in the small intestine that absorb nutrients from food. Left untreated, celiac disease can damage the small bowel, contribute to chronic diseases like osteoporosis, and may even be life threatening. It’s estimated that 2 million Americans suffer from celiac disease which is a gluten allergy. However, another 30 million are thought to have gluten sensitivity which you can think of as less serious as a gluten allergy, but still damaging to the body over the long term.
Over time, celiac disease can lead to serious, sometimes life threating, health problems. That’s why it’s critically important to get tested. But, this simple blood test needs to be done before you eliminate gluten from your diet, otherwise it’s not accurate. A positive test for antibodies to gluten should be followed by an endoscopy to check for damage to the small intestine the endoscopy is the only test that is 100% accurate.
It is critical to avoid gluten in all forms, including wheat, spelt, barley, rye, and oats that may be contaminated from storage in wheat silos. Check labels to find hidden sources in foods like soups, rice mixes, and even soy sauce. When adopting a gluten-free diet, focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy and grains like non-contaminated oats, amaranth, and quinoa. These foods are naturally gluten-free.
Keeping gluten out of your life can be a challenge, especially if you travel or eat out frequently. Plan ahead and check with the restaurant’s management. When traveling, notify your hotel of your dietary needs. When booking a flight, request a gluten-free meal. If you are traveling locally, pack a cooler with gluten-free foods to ensure that you’ll be able to enjoy your trip.
A daily multivitamin: is important since people with celiac have increased nutritional needs because of malabsorption. What’s more, many gluten-free foods are low in nutrients. Look for a liquid multivitamin-mineral supplement to enhance absorption. Typical dosage: Follow label directions.
Digestive enzymes: aid in the breakdown of food and may be particularly beneficial for those with celiac. Look for a supplement that contains a specific enzyme called DPP IV, which has been shown to aid in the breakdown of gluten. Taken before meals you suspect have gluten. This enzyme may help to aid digestion and mitigate the impact of hidden gluten. Typical dosage: Follow label directions.
Fiber: is important for gastrointestinal well-being and weight maintenance. Since many processed gluten-free foods are low in fiber, consider adding a fiber supplement to your daily regime. Typical dosage: 35 grams of fiber daily from a combination of food and supplements.
Probiotics: help to repopulate the good intestinal bacteria that may be lacking in celiacs. One clinical trial published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that many celiacs suffer from gut bacteria overgrowth that can trigger gastrointestinal symptoms. The addition of a probiotic supplement can help to rebalance intestinal bacteria and may ease symptoms. Typical dosage: 1 to 5 billion CFUs daily.
NOTE: Gluten is used as a binder in some medications and supplements. Check labels or contact the manufacturer to ensure your supplements are gluten-free.