Celiac disease, celiac sprue or gluten sensitive enteropathy is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestines. In our bodies, the small intestine is responsible for the absorption of the foods we eat. When someone with celiac disease ingests foods that contain gluten, the body produces antibodies that attack the small intestines and, in particularly, the villi.
The villi are tiny hair-like projections that line the small intestine, allowing nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, the body is unable to absorb the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals we need, regardless of how much we eat or the quality of foods we eat. Without our ability to absorb nutrients, over time, it can lead to malnutrition and/or secondary health concerns.
The cause of celiac disease is unknown, but it is thought to have a genetic association. It can appear at any time in a person’s life, but has been known to be triggered for the first time after pregnancy, childbirth, surgery or severe emotional stress. Because of its potential genetic association, it is strongly suggested that family members of individuals diagnosed with celiac disease take a simple antibody test to rule it out, even if they have no symptoms.
Recognizing celiac disease can be difficult, because many of the symptoms are similar to other diseases and disorders. Because of this, it is commonly misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed. Some common symptoms of celiac disease can include abdominal cramping, intestinal gas, bloating, chronic diarrhea or constipation, fatty stools, anemia, weight loss or weight gain.
Because of its interference with our body’s ability to absorb nutrition, conditions associated with nutritional deficiencies such as anemia, osteoporosis or vitamin K deficiency can occur. Other more varied symptoms can include dental enamel defects, bone or joint pain, fatigue, weakness, infertility in both male and female, depression, irritability, behavioral changes, muscle cramps, seizures or digestive disorders.
Although there is no cure for celiac disease, there are a number of natural and alternative health remedies you can incorporate into your life to help restore health and eliminate further damage to the intestinal tract.
Recommendations for wellness
– Adhere to a gluten-free diet. Avoid foods that contain grains, including wheat, spelt, kamut, einkorn, faro, rye, barley and triticale. Make it a habit to read all food labels and learn to identify ingredients that may contain hidden gluten. When adhering to a gluten-free diet, most people begin to experience improvements in their symptoms within a few weeks.
– Avoid milk and milk products until your symptoms have started to clear. Individuals with celiac disease often find themselves lactose intolerant as well. Over time, dairy products can slowly be reintroduced into the diet.
– Have your bone density checked. It is very common for individuals with celiac disease to experience bone loss and osteoporosis.
– Take a high quality vitamin and mineral supplement to help restore any nutritional deficiencies that may be present. Be careful to ensure that the supplements you are taking don’t contain hidden gluten. Many companies, for example, use wheat starch as a binding agent in tablets and capsules.
– Supplementing with colostrum and other probiotics can help to heal the lining of the intestinal tract.
– Add a digestive enzyme to your health routine. Studies have shown that people with celiac disease often do not produce sufficient amounts of pancreatic enzymes.
– Fish oils, such as those found in omega 3 oil has been shown to help reduce inflammation of the intestinal lining.