Supplementing for Celiac Disease
by Laurel Sterling Prisco, R.D.
CELIAC DISEASE (CD) COMPROMISES HEALTH IN TWO SIGNIFICANT WAYS:
1. By creating an allergic or sensitivity response to gluten.
2. By inhibiting the body's ability to properly absorb nutrients resulting from gastro-intestinal (GI) lining damage due to allergic response.
The latter creates symptoms and conditions related to malabsorption, including involuntary weight loss, anemia and other mineral and vitamin deficiencies, chronic fatigue and weakness, bone/joint pain and osteoporosis, as well as irritability and depression.
To start back on the path to health and prevent further damage, a gluten-free (GF) diet is essential. Then, to help alleviate symptoms associated with malabsorption, many supplements are recommended to assist and improve digestion, especially in those cases where CD has gone undiagnosed for years. (Note: GF foods tend to be lower in fiber, most B vitamins, and iron. Because of this, the need for highly absorbable and assimilated supplements increases.)
Weight loss and diarrhea are two of the most outwardly prominent clinical signs of CD. A highly absorbable multi-vitamin/mineral supplies essential water-soluble vitamins, such as C and many of the B vitamins, as well as fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, and E. I recommend Advanced Daily by NutriNeeds. Also consider a quality protein shake with added vitamins and minerals; this may help halt muscle wasting, which tends to occur with severe or rapid weight loss. UltraMeal by Metagenics is a protein shake approved as a medical food by the FDA and available in several delicious flavors with options of soy, whey, or rice.
To offset the high-risk, malabsorptionrelated condition of osteoporosis, a first-rate calcium supplement is suggested. The citrate form is preferred since it has been shown to be more easily assimilated by the body. Osteoprime by Enzymatic Therapy is a perfect choice. A vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), such as Douglas Lab's Vitamin D 1000 IU, is an essential complement to the calcium supplement because it enables the cells to absorb the calcium. D3 means it's in a form already transferred to one our bodies can use and does not require sunlight for conversion.
Iron deficiency, anemia, or vitamin B12 deficiency may also occur in certain individuals due to malabsorption; therefore, a product called Blood Builder from Megafoods is recommended. This is a wholefood supplement, making it easily absorbed by the body.
If lactose intolerance is an issue, consider Tyler's Lactase Concentrate Enzyme. In most cases, intolerance to lactose (milk and related foods) will dissipate following a few months of a GF diet. The enzyme helps alleviate the side effects of bloating, cramps, and other discomforts associated with impaired digestion.
Making probiotics a part of your regime is also highly recommended. The GI tract is made up of both beneficial and harmful bacteria. Maintaining a balance between them is essential for proper nutrient absorption and gut health. Probiotics, such as Flora Biotic 16 from NutriNeeds, are beneficial bacteria that can be introduced into the digestive system through food, or in this case, a supplement. They are helpful to CD sufferers because of their ability to replenish the beneficial bacteria, which were likely eradicated after numerous rounds of antibiotics administered due to past misdiagnoses. In conjunction with a GF diet, probiotics also help alleviate bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
Food allergies are often experienced by those diagnosed with leaky gut, a condition in which the intestinal wall is compromised, allowing undesirable molecules "to leak" through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. Since these molecules can trigger food allergies, the amino acid L-glutamine, from Solaray or in SeaCure from Proper Nutrition, is recommended. The latter is a high-quality fish protein concentrate of peptides and amino acids. Both work to help rebuild tissue and heal the GI tract.
GF and other low-fiber diets are linked with various health problems. Fiber is important for moving stool through the intestinal tract, thus preventing constipation. It has also been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, keep cholesterol levels low, and prevent heart disease. Adding ground flax seed (such as FiProFLAX) is a highly recommended way of getting fiber into your diet.
Another common symptom experienced by those with CD is Dermatitis Herpetiformis, though it does not occur in all individuals. It is a chronic skin condition characterized by an intense burning and itching rash. Areas most commonly affected are elbows, knees, back of neck, scalp, upper back, and buttocks. Essential fatty acids (EFAs), in combination with dietary changes, may help alleviate this condition. EFAs include fish, flax, or borage oils. NutriNeeds makes a combination formula called Everyday Essential Oils. These oils support the skin, eyes, and brain, and are easily absorbed by all cell membranes. They are also crucial in providing support for anxiety or depression that may be a result of CD, due to both chronic malabsorption and the challenges involved in learning to live with food sensitivities and allergies.
No one supplement will meet all the needs of a CD patient, but with some direction, a few choice selections can make the difference between a speedy or slow recovery. As always, it is recommended that a health practitioner, familiar with each person's medical history and symptoms, be consulted.