Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged due to reaction to consumption of gluten. Because of this damage, absorption becomes compromised. Gluten is the protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, spelt and rye. There are many different signs and symptoms of varying intensities associated with celiac disease. These include fatigue, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, weight loss, diarrhea, delayed growth, skin rash, depression and more. Many of these signs and symptoms can also be seen in other disorders, which can make celiac disease go undiagnosed in many cases including some cases of unexplained infertility. There are tests that can be done to diagnose this condition. In fact, in Italy where celiac disease is common, all children under 6 are screened for this condition as early detection is vital.
How common is celiac disease?
According to Celiac Association of Canada, it is estimated that 1 in 133 Canadians are affected by celiac disease.
How is celiac disease diagnosed?
Blood tests such as anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody, anti-endomysial antibody, IgA and IgG anti-gliadin antibody are some of the tests that are recommended.
The definitive diagnosis is a biopsy of the small bowel. It is only after a definitive diagnosis through this procedure has been made, that a strict gluten-free diet is initiated.
What are some possible complications associated with celiac disease?
Osteoporosis, anemia, neurological problems, depression, greater likelihood of miscarriage, difficulty with fertility, stunted growth in children and lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance has to do with inability to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. The enzyme lactase is needed for digestion of dairy. Since in celiac, the lining of the small intestine is damaged, the brush border enzymes which include lactases are reduced, hence some celiac patients experience lactose intolerance.
Most of these complications are resolved or improve over time once celiac disease has been diagnosed, a strict gluten-free diet is followed, the body is replenished with the needed nutrients, the gut has healed and malabsorption has been resolved.
What are the treatments?
The treatment is following a strict gluten-free diet. This means reading ingredient labels and eliminating any foods/products that contain gluten, even trace amounts of gluten.
Being on a good naturopathic nutritional plan is paramount in celiac disease for three main reasons.
Often in an attempt to avoid gluten, many patients resort to one or two alternatives to gluten such as rice or potato. Eating the same foods repeatedly has a couple of downfalls. One is that variety in diet is needed in order for us to get the different nutrients required by our bodies. The other problem is that eating the same foods repeatedly can trigger food sensitivities to those foods in the long run so you could end up for example with a sensitivity to rice if that has become your food staple.
This has to do with absorption. There are some foods that are more easily digestible hence making their absorption easier. There are also specific foods that are healing to the gut and help repair some of the damage in the intestines. Healing of the gut is essential component of a treatment approach to celiac disease. The gut must be healed in order for the absorption issues to be resolved. As long malabsorption (poor absorption) persists, there will be problems on a systemic level because essential nutrients are not being extracted from the foods eaten and as a result the organs are not being properly nourished.
The body needs to be replenished with the proper nutrients, this is both through diet, supplements and/or intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy. In my practice, I frequently use intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy for my celiac patients. Since this therapy gets the nutrients directly into the blood circulation (not having to go through the digestive system), I know for sure the nutrients are being taken up by the different body systems. This therapy also allows me to introduce higher doses of nutrients into the body that would otherwise not be possible orally. The result is that patients get quickly replenished with important nutrients, positively impacting their energy, mood and overall wellbeing.
If you suspect you may have celiac disease especially if you have a family member that has this condition, don’t delay, see your healthcare provider and get the appropriate tests for a proper diagnosis.
Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
The information on this website is for education purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.