Celiac disease is a digestive disorder in which the immune system reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Over time, this reaction damages the small intestine’s lining and prevents absorption of some nutrients.
This disease often begins between 6 months and 2 years of age. However, it may develop at any age.
About 1 in 141 Americans suffer from celiac disease, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It is also known as celiac sprue, non-tropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. It is similar to gluten intolerance, which is less severe than celiac disease.
Some of the classic symptoms or indicators of the disease include bloating, weight loss, loss of appetite and chronic diarrhea. In addition to digestive trouble, some people also exhibit other symptoms including anemia, loss of bone density, itchy or blistery skin rash, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, acid reflux, irregular menstrual periods, tooth discoloration, infertility.
The symptoms can vary from person to person depending on several factors, such as the length of time one was breastfed as an infant, the age one started eating gluten, the amount of gluten one consumes and the severity of intestinal damage.
Genetic predisposition is a common risk factor for this disease. Other diseases that can also increase your risk of this disease are lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, autoimmune liver disease, Addison’s disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, Down syndrome, Turner’s syndrome, lactose intolerance, intestinal cancer and intestinal lymphoma.
There’s no cure for celiac disease, but this does not mean that having celiac disease is the end of the world. You just need to be a bit more careful with what you eat and you can easily manage symptoms and promote intestinal healing.
Here are the top 10 tips to deal with celiac disease.
1. Eliminate Gluten from Your Diet
A strict, lifelong gluten-free diet is one of the most important things you need to do when dealing with this celiac disease. Once you remove gluten from your diet, the inflammation in the small intestine reduces gradually. This in turn reduces the severity of the symptoms and you start feeling better.
It’s important to know that wheat and all of its forms are not the only foods that contain gluten.
There are many grains that have gluten, such as barley, bulgur, durum, farina, graham flour, malt, rye, semolina, spelt (a form of wheat) and triticale. Oats that have been made in processing plants that handle other grains may also contain gluten.
When you are eating out, always ask your server for a gluten-free menu.
If you have any questions, you can consult a dietician who can help you plan a healthy, gluten-free diet.
2. Opt for Gluten-Free Grains
Going gluten-free may seem a difficult task as you start wondering what to eat now. Well, there are many grains and foods that are gluten-free.
Some of the gluten-free grains are amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, cassava, millet, corn, quinoa, brown rice, sorghum, soy and tapioca, to name a few.
You can also easily find gluten-free breads, pasta, crackers and cereals. But make sure to check the labels for any hidden ingredients that may contain gluten.
Remember to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, legumes, nuts, potatoes, eggs, dairy products, fish, lean beef and chicken to get all the essential nutrients in your diet.
3. Be Aware of Hidden Gluten
Once you have substituted gluten-rich grains with gluten-free grains, it’s time to gain knowledge about products with hidden gluten.
In fact, hidden gluten can be present in foods, medications and nonfood products either as a minor ingredient or as a result of cross contamination from other ingredients being used in the same manufacturing facility. Such products include:
- Modified food starch, preservatives and food stabilizers
- Chicken broth
- Malt vinegar
- Salad dressings
- Common seasonings and spice mixes
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
- Nutritional supplements
- Lipstick products
- Oral hygiene products like toothpaste and mouthwash
- Envelope and stamp glue
Always check the label before buying any product to be on the safe side.
4. Drink Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe vera is beneficial for people suffering from celiac disease. It helps heal the inflammation of the small intestine, facilitate tissue repair, and promote proper digestion.
When taken daily, this natural anti-inflammatory agent helps soothe the irritation in the digestive system and restore balance in the gut. This in turn regulates gastrointestinal pH balance, while improving gastrointestinal motility and keeping the system regular.
However, drinking aloe vera juice certainly isn’t a magic bullet cure. Nothing is going to happen after drinking one glass of it. You need to drink a glass of the juice regularly for several days, even weeks to notice an improvement in your condition.
To prepare the juice, blend together 2 tablespoons of fresh aloe vera gel and any citrus juice or just water in a blender. Do not take more than 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel in a day as it may cause gastrointestinal discomforts.
5. Enjoy Sunshine
Vitamin D deficiency is common in people suffering from celiac disease. This happens as this vitamin is needed for the proper functioning of pancreatic enzymes and it would also be absorbed in the region mostly damaged by celiac disease.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology analyzed vitamin D status and concomitant autoimmunity in celiac disease. Researchers found that vitamin D deficiency in celiac disease is common but does not predict other autoimmune diseases. Also, the risk of psoriasis is increased in vitamin D-deficient celiac patients.
In fact, vitamin D deficiency is responsible for the high incidence of bone disorders in people with celiac disease.
To fight this vitamin deficiency, daily exposure to early morning sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes without sunscreen will help a lot. You can also take a vitamin D supplement, after consulting your doctor.
6. Eat Probiotics
Comprised of good bacteria, probiotics help reestablish the beneficial bacterial environment in the gut as well as promoting healing of the digestive tract. Hence, people suffering from celiac disease must include probiotics in their diet.
A 2008 study published in Clinical & Experimental Immunology found that certain strains of probiotics (Lactobacillus fermentum and Bifidobacterium lactis) could be protective against the intestinal damage caused by celiac disease.
Later, a 2014 study published in Clinical Microbiology Reviews reported that specific probiotics have been found to digest or alter gluten polypeptides. Certain probiotics exert protective properties on epithelial cells from damage caused by gliadin.
- Eat cultured and fermented foods, such as yogurt with live cultures, acidophilus milk, kefir, miso, tempeh and sauerkraut, as they are rich in probiotics.
- You can also take probiotic supplements, after consulting your doctor.