Celiac disease (CD) can result in other fatal diseases if you ignore it for a long time. In this article, I’m going to tell you how you can spot it, why it’s so destructive, what diet is best for CD and how you can avoid aggravating foods.
Reduce the inflammation in your gut which is devastating your health.
Inflammation in your gut is caused by the reaction your immune system is having towards certain foods you are eating. Your intestines are in a constant inflammatory state causing them to constantly renew.
The renewal of cells within your intestine wall in typical situations happen at a slower rate, and the gap junctions which keep large food molecules out don’t open up.
In your situation of hyper intestinal cell turnover, the integrity of gap junctions and functionality of cells diminish. On the left, in the diagram below are normal gap junctions and on the right are loose gap junctions.
As a result, you are caught in a chronic state of inflammation. You have to take it upon yourself to best regulate the turnover of cells to allow your gut to restore itself.
To be precise about things, the elements that make up the intestinal cells which allow for the gut barrier are goblet cells, Paneth cells, enteroendocrine cells and absorptive enterocytes.
Goblet cell function – Goblet cells secrete mucus that allows protection for other cells in the stomach and to provide a barrier from pathogens.
Your body is very smart and in good conditions, your intestinal mucosa allows good bacteria to thrive. There is the inner and the outer mucosal layer in your large intestine.
The outer layer provides an environment where good bacteria can thrive. It provides the conditions good bacteria needs as well as a food source to feed them.
If good bacteria dominate in your gastrointestinal tract (GIT) then harmful bacteria which causes intestinal damage are destroyed. The inner layer is attached to the large intestine cells and acts as a filter which generally restricts particles that are too big from entering.
Your small intestine only has one layer of mucous which means that harmful bacteria can penetrate it much easier.
The oversecretion or the under secretion of mucous in celiac disease can negatively impact your small and large and intestine.
The under secretion of mucous doesn’t provide a barrier between your cells and harmful bacteria which can cause destruction and inflammation. Lastly, oversecretion doesn’t allow you to efficiently absorb nutrients from your food.
You have to get that balance just right.
Paneth cells – Paneth cells provide a different form of defence. These cells secrete zinc and other antimicrobial molecules to provide protection against the penetration from your native intestinal bacteria and other foreign substances.
Nutritional deficiencies that can cause other diseases
A lot of your attention should be focused on restoring the nutrients you are deficient in. One of the primary reasons for nutrient deficiency is due to the damage of the intestinal cells.
This physiological damage to the mucosa of the intestine leads to a decrease in cholecystokinin which is a hormone that stimulates the secretion of pancreatic enzymes.
Pancreatic enzymes are required to break down foods which allow you to absorb nutrients.
This is backed up by the fact that celiac disease patients have low levels of a marker for pancreatic enzymes in their stools called elastase-1. Elastase-1 levels return to their optimum after a year on a gluten-free diet.
Additionally, your intestinal cells are at a disadvantage because they are functioning at less than optimum from the damage inflicted.
Iron – Iron deficiency is commonly seen in CD patients. Iron deficiency might even be the only manifestation of CD presenting as anaemia. Your body uses iron in other ways like producing energy, enzymes, and to help synthesise some cells in the nervous system.
B12 – Another common deficiency seen in up to 41% of cases is a lack of B12. B12 is needed to produce energy, protect the cardiovascular system by reducing homocysteine, protect the nervous system, and to improve mood.
Zinc – Zinc deficiencies were found in the majority of CD patients in a study. CD can present with skin manifestations and lesions and zinc is recommended for healthier skin. Zinc is also required the immune system.
Calcium – Calcium deficiencies are also present which might be in association with osteomalacia which is softening of the bones.
Vitamin A, D, E and K – Fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies frequently occur in CD.
Your vitamin A levels are measured by serum retinol and can manifest as night blindness, ulcers in the corner of the eye (keratomalacia) and dryness of the eyes.
Vitamin D deficiency can manifest the same as calcium deficiency with softening of the bones which is felt as pain and muscle weakness.
Vitamin E deficiency is associated with anaemia, uncoordinated walking and causing numbness or tingling in your arms or legs.
Lastly, vitamin K deficiency is detected through the prolonged time it takes your blood to clot and how frequent you bruise.
Other tests can be done to measure other nutrients, vitamin and mineral deficiencies like selenium, copper and B6.
Going on a gluten-free diet (GFD) to rapidly decrease CD symptoms
This might just be the best diet you can go on for CD. Between 70% and 95% of people with CD experience a rapid disappearance of symptoms within the first two weeks on GFD. An interesting and important thing to note is that the poor state of your intestinal cells will take about 2 years to repair.
The GFD diet is based on two fundamental premises. The first is making sure that you eliminate all products containing wheat, spelt, rye, barley, and oats. The second premise is making sure you remove all products that come from semolina, flour, starch, bread, pastries, and cakes.
Additionally, you have to also eliminate all the byproducts from these grains like beverages (beer) and medication.
Oats by themselves don’t contain gluten, but a lot of oat products are contaminated with wheat and barley. If you choose to eat oats, then make sure the ones you are buying explicitly say they are not contaminated.
It’s tough to follow a gluten free diet in the society that we live in because wheat is contained in 70% of manufactured products.
However, if you intend to get healthy while on the GFD and not just avoid its clinical manifestations than a plant based diet with meat, nuts and seeds might be for you.
The gluten free diet is open to modification from the person who is consuming it. For example, if you want to optimise your nutritional status and decrease inflammation then eating more micronutrient whole foods is the best option.
If you tested positive for micronutrient deficiencies before the diagnosis of CD, then it might be appropriate to supplement.
Chronic cases of CD will have higher rates of lactose intolerance so cutting out dairy products might have to happen.
Don’t fret. You can get dietary sources of calcium from foods. These include kale, rocket, spinach, watercress, beetroot greens, bok choi, okra, spring onions and so on.
It’s important to recognise that you might slip up with this diet if what you’re eating now consists mostly of wheat.
A lot of people don’t stick with the GFD long term because they simply don’t want to give up wheat foods, they accidently consume foods with wheat in it, or they just find it too difficult to follow.
These excuses can cause you self-harm. If you’re not frightened from the deficiencies caused by CD, let me explain what chronic CD means for you.
What will happen to you if you don’t do something about your CD?
Not to be harsh or cruel, but to put it bluntly. If you don’t do something now CD can lead to different types of cancer like lymphoma, adenocarcinoma of the pharynx, small intestine and oesophagus.
Other issues arise like: small intestine ulcers, and conditions relating to the deficiency of vitamins and minerals. To leave CD to its own devices is not the best idea, address this condition head on.
Optimising your digestion for better nutrient assimilation
The change in diet that we talked about just before is a great start. However, there are little tips that you can apply that will multiply the effectiveness of nutrient assimilation.
The foods you want to incorporate into your diet can cause bloating and distension if you don’t ever consume them on a regular basis. This will only last a couple of days, and these symptoms are nothing compared to what CD does to anyway.
To combat this bloated feeling, you can consume beverages that will help stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes. The stimulation of enzymes is caused by sour or bitter food and drinks which activate the vagus nerve.
As you can see in the picture below, the stimulation of the vagus nerve sends a message to the liver to release bile.
To get this activation you can start off with what is considered mild vagus nerve stimulant. This is two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice into 30ml of water. The second option is to put one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into 30ml of water. You should sip on this ten to fifteen minutes before every meal.
The stimulation of enzymes has a cascading effect on the rest of the GIT. Specifically, when the acid of your stomach is at the right pH, then bacteria in your stomach don’t have much of a chance to thrive.
The correct pH pushes back the bacterial colonies to where they should be in the small and large intestines. Couple that with a proper diet that doesn’t cause damage and you have the potential to positively change the environment of your GIT which will improve your ability to absorb nutrients.
Another secret I want to let you in on is the effects the amino acid glutamine can have in your intestines.
Enhance your guts healing with L-glutamine
Glutamine works to protect your gut from injury and hyperpermeability is by activating heat shock proteins (HSP). Heat shock proteins are found in all cells and respond to injury and stress.
Glutamine enhances the response of HSP-70 in the intestinal cells which improves your cells chance of survival and repair. Remember how rapid intestinal cell turnover happens in chronic inflammation, well glutamine slows that process down.
Gut permeability is positively affected by the consumption of glutamine. It has been observed that glutamine improves the intestinal barrier in patients who had come out of surgery.
The gap junctions in your intestines are also positively impacted. A study observed this where patients taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatories also took glutamine. The gut permeability caused by the NSAIDs was lowered with glutamine consumption.
How to avoid gluten in store-bought foods
The big thing to consider here is that about 70% of packaged foods contain wheat. It can get tricky reading the back of labels as they don’t all explicitly say gluten.
You’ll see from this list your about to read that it can get very confusing very fast. For this reason, it could be a good idea to avoid packaged food altogether and head for the fruit and vegetable isle.
Here’s the list:
- cereal extract
- cracker meal
- emmer flour
- club flour
- durum flour
- maida flour
- spelt flour
There’s a vast amount of products containing wheat. You can still buy packaged products, but you must always have google ready if your unsure about what something is.
It’s crucial you avoid gluten containing products if you’re going on the GFD. Your symptoms could come back and might give up because you think it doesn’t work.
Getting a diagnosis for CD
So, what now?
At this point, your reading this because you’re either diagnosed or looking for a diagnosis. I found a comprehensive table that lists out organ systems that are affected by CD. These range from intestinal abnormalities to skin and nervous system manifestations.
Have a look below and see if you identify with any of these symptoms.
If you identify with some of these symptoms, then go to your doctor to see what is going on.
You have learnt a lot from this article, and I want you to take the steps necessary for you to get better.
To sum it up, we talked about:
- The implications of inflammation
- Nutritional deficiencies
- The gluten free diet
- What might happen to you if you don’t take action against your CD
- Optimising your digestion for assimilation of nutrients
- How glutamine can help heal your gut
- How to avoid gluten in packaged foods and
- Symptoms displayed in CD.
Take all of this information and apply it as best you can in your life. But, before you go, I want to ask you a question.
How has Celiac Disease impacted your life and what have you done to improve it? I want to hear your story.