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Health & Wellness

All About Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance

You have probably noticed an increasing range of gluten-free products on supermarket shelves. While many of those products are bought by people who are simply choosing to avoid gluten as part of a broader health kick, they are aimed at people who suffer from a fairly common condition known as celiac disease.

 width= What Is Celiac Disease?


Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition which affects one in 100 people around the world. People who suffer from celiac disease cannot digest gluten properly, and if they ingest it, then it will cause damage to the small intestine, which can lead to other health conditions. Celiac is hereditary, and if someone has a close relative with the condition, then they have a ten percent chance of developing celiac disease themselves. 1

Are Celiac and Gluten Intolerance the Same Thing?


Celiac disease, wheat allergy, and gluten intolerance often get grouped together in the mainstream media, but they are not the same thing. They do have similar symptoms, but they are triggered in different ways. The exact cause of non-celiac gluten sensitivity is not clearly understood yet, but doctors do accept that something in gluten causes some people who do not have celiac disease to suffer gastric distress. On the other hand, those who have a wheat allergy are sensitive to one of the proteins in wheat but can safely consume gluten from other sources. 2

The good news is that many children who are allergic to wheat outgrow the allergy and that gluten intolerant people can often cope with ingesting small amounts of gluten so they typically find grocery shopping and dining out much easier than those with celiac disease.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease celiac gluten intolerance


The symptoms of celiac disease are quite varied, and those who have mild celiac disease may have trouble getting diagnosed because the symptoms may only flare up when they eat a lot of gluten. However, it is still important to get diagnosed and to manage the condition carefully. Common symptoms include diarrhea caused by damage to the intestines that prevents proper absorption of nutrients, abdominal pain, bloating, indigestion, vomiting, and constipation. 3

If left untreated, or in severe cases, people may experience fatigue, unexpected weight loss, peripheral neuropathy, and an itchy rash.

Is Celiac Disease Serious?


Celiac disease is a fairly serious condition, but fortunately, it is one that can be managed quite effectively by cutting out gluten from the diet. If celiac disease is left untreated, however, then it will cause damage to the small intestine which can lead to anemia and osteoporosis and also increase the risk of lymphoma. 4

The damage to the small intestine can leave the intestines unable to absorb nutrients such as iron and calcium. Adults will notice that they feel drained and unwell. Children with untreated celiac disease may not grow as quickly as they should and could end up with weak bones because of the lack of nutrient absorption.

Additionally, people who have celiac disease are at a greater risk of developing some other autoimmune conditions, including type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroid disease. 5 These are both serious conditions which will need careful management. Because of this, early diagnosis of celiac disease is beneficial because it means that people can get proper screening for the other conditions.

Common Celiac Myths


The recent trend of people who are generally healthy going “gluten-free” has created a number of myths and stigmas about celiac disease. It is often repeated that celiac is rare, that it is a childhood disease, and that people who have it suffer from it have easily recognizable symptoms, such as having persistent diarrhea or are underweight.

Most of these are misconceptions. Celiac is actually quite common, affecting around one percent of the population. It can affect people of any ethnicity and any age. Symptoms can vary greatly which is why it can take a long time to diagnose the condition. 6

celiac gluten intolerance Coping with Celiac Disease


Coping with celiac disease will mean making some changes to how you live your day-to-day life. This can be quite challenging for the individual, as well as for family members. 7

In cases where it is a child that has been diagnosed with celiac disease, there is an additional burden because it is not just the child and the parents that need to be educated in how to avoid gluten-containing foods, but also other caregivers, teachers, associated youth workers, and anyone else who may be around the child in a setting where food is involved. 8

The good news about getting a diagnosis is that when people start to avoid gluten, they see an improvement in symptoms almost immediately. General nausea and gastric distress should pass within a couple of days, as should bloating. Fatigue and other more serious symptoms may take longer to heal, as it takes time for the intestines to recover and for the body to properly absorb nutrients again.

There can be a few stages of coping with the diagnosis, however. Initial reactions of embarrassment and a mild form of depression are normal. Since it can take a long time to get diagnosed with celiac, by the time someone has a name for their condition, individuals may be lethargic, struggling to sleep, and malnourished, so low moods are fairly common. 9

The recent trend towards detoxing is something that makes celiac sufferers feel uncomfortable talking about their condition for fear of being dismissed as following trends. Celiac can be socially isolating, but the alternative—not speaking up and eating a food that is dangerous for overall health—is worse.

Foods You Can and Can't Eat celiac gluten intolerance


If you have been told by your doctor that you need to follow a gluten-free diet, then you should be aware of which foods contain gluten and which do not. Foods to avoid include bread, pasta, biscuits, crackers, pastries, cakes, pies, and many sauces. However, there are often gluten-free versions of the above foods.

Foods that are safe to eat include most dairy products, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, rice, potatoes, and corn, soy, potato and rice versions of flour/noodles. 10

Food labeling standards vary from country to country. Foods that are marked as being gluten-free will typically contain no more than 20 ppm of gluten. This is a tiny amount of gluten and most people will be able to tolerate it, but there are some people for whom even those trace amounts would be too much. For someone who suffers from a severe intolerance to gluten, it is important to follow a diet that is completely free from cereals.

Cross-contamination is another issue. Oats, for example, are gluten-free, but they are often contaminated with cereals which do contain gluten. In addition, oats contain avenin, a protein that can trigger celiac symptoms in a small number of people with celiac disease. If you are going to try to add oats to your diet, make sure that they are handled in a factory that does not handle other cereals and monitor your symptoms to ensure that they are not getting worse.

celiac gluten intolerance Natural Remedies for Celiac Symptoms


Once you have been diagnosed with celiac disease you should aim to completely eliminate gluten from your diet—there is no replacement for this important step. There is no known cure for celiac, and any time you ingest gluten, you will be doing damage to your small intestines. The intestines will heal over time if you completely avoid gluten, but ingesting even a small amount of gluten could make symptoms return.

Sadly, unless you grow your own food and never eat out, you are unlikely to completely avoid gluten. Many restaurants advertise gluten-free products but cook them on the same grill and using the same utensils as their gluten-containing foods. Sometimes, companies make mistakes with food labels. It is highly likely that at some point you will unwittingly be exposed to gluten.

If you start to experience gastric distress, bloating and other issues, then you might want to try some remedies to reduce the symptoms and to help your body recover more quickly. Some of these are highlighted below.

Papain Supplementation


Papain supplements can help stimulate the enzymes in your small intestine which may help reduce the symptoms that occur from small amounts of exposure to gluten. 11 You should still try to avoid gluten whenever possible, but papain can help for those accidental trace exposures.

Fish Oil celiac gluten intolerance


Fish oil can coat the intestinal lining and help reduce inflammation which may help reduce celiac symptom flare-ups associated with exposure to trace amounts of gluten. 12

Natural Yogurts


Natural yogurts (not the sugar-filled, highly processed ones) can help stimulate good bacteria in the gut. People who have celiac disease, especially those that have had symptoms for a long time, are encouraged to take in lots of yogurts to help sustain the population of good gut flora and support healing, as well for promoting better absorption of nutrients. 13

celiac gluten intolerance Essential Oils


Some essential oils have immune-boosting effects and others can help soothe upset stomachs, making them useful for people who are experiencing gastric distress. Chamomile has been found to be useful for reducing gastric symptoms and peppermint is often used to help people alleviate symptoms of bloating and pain in celiac sufferers. 14 , 15

Try using these essential oils topically after diluting them in a carrier oil or aromatically in a room diffuser or personal diffuser.

Supplements


Since poor absorption of nutrients is common in those who suffer from celiac disease, good nutrition is important. Taking a multivitamin or a supplement may help boost levels of essential nutrients in your body. Be sure to talk to a doctor to find out if there are any nutrients that you specifically may be at risk of developing a deficiency of. 16

Conclusion


Most people who have celiac disease are able to live a relatively normal life once they are diagnosed with it. The condition is quite common now and recent diet trends mean that it is easier than ever to find popular treats in a gluten-free form.

Even as recently as a decade ago, gluten-free foods were hard to find and expensive, so those who had celiac disease were limited in terms of what they could eat without cooking from scratch. Now, there are far more snacks and fast foods that are gluten-free, so you can enjoy the same convenience as most other people without having to visit niche stores or spend a significant amount of extra money.

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