Better Health With Celiac Disease
Certain foods can trigger gluten sensitivities in people with celiac disease, manifesting as extreme digestive upset. The condition occurs when an individual’s body cannot properly process the protein often found in wheat, barley, and rye. Much more than just a digestive discomfort, a person with celiac disease will trigger an immune response when glutenous foods are eaten. While no cure currently exists, opting for a gluten-free diet and considering supplementation for vitamin loss can help.
How celiac disease affects the body
In most cases, people with celiac disease are genetically predisposed, meaning the condition is inherited. Celiac disease is classified as an autoimmune condition. When foods with gluten are eaten, the body mounts an immune response which leads to the small intestinal lining being attacked. With sustained damage, the digestive system struggles to properly absorb critical nutrients. Nutritional deficiencies are common in individuals with uncontrolled celiac disease. Left untreated, people are at a higher risk for developing coronary artery disease (CAD), type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), osteoporosis, infertility, and even small bowel cancers.
1. Vitamin D
Since the condition inhibits the small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients, many critical vitamins may need to be supplemented. However, vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus. Both nutrients are important for overall bone health and growth. The vitamin is also linked with better cardiovascular health and controlling insulin levels to stave off diabetes. A vitamin D supplement can also play a critical role in boosting immunity. Vitamin D isn’t naturally present in many foods but can be found in fortified options like milk and supplements. However, always consult a dietician to ensure any supplements or fortified foods are gluten-free.
Known as a super nutrient, zinc is most closely linked with shortening the length of common illnesses like colds and the flu. The mineral is also associated with better wound healing, improved cellular function, and overall support for bodily growth and development. Zinc deficiencies can present as slower growth, low immunity, loss of appetite, hair loss, unexplained weight loss, and even constant diarrhea.
Worldwide, iron deficiencies are incredibly common. While the condition is most common in women of menstruating age, difficulties with nutritional absorption from celiac disease can also cause anemia. The condition most frequently impacts the upper portion of the intestines, and that location is where the bulk of iron absorption is meant to occur. While supplementation is possible, individuals with a celiac diagnosis can benefit from first adopting a gluten-free diet and then incorporating safe iron-rich foods.
Focus on diet first
Since celiac disease is a result of exposing the digestive system to gluten, focusing on dietary changes first is critical for recovery and overall health. Keep in mind that a damaged digestive system can’t properly absorb nutrients. So, a person’s diet must first change to give the intestinal lining time to heal and repair. Nutritional deficiencies linked with the disease can take 2-18 months to self-correct after implementing a gluten-free diet. Supplements like vitamin D, zinc, and iron are essential additions during recovery.