Supplements For Combatting Celiac Disease

What is Celiac Disease?

celiac diseaseCeliac disease is an inherited condition in which the body is intolerant to gluten, a form of protein found in some grains, including wheat, barley, and rye (4). The human body naturally functions to protect itself from foreign invaders, but when someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, the immune system reacts by sending antibodies to attack the intestinal lining. This results in inflammation and damage to the tiny hair-like structures called villi, lining the small intestine. When those villi are damaged, they are unable to properly absorb nutrients, like fat, iron, calcium, and folate, as they are normally supposed to do. Thus, the person becomes malnourished no matter how much they eat, because they cannot absorb the nutrients being physically consumed (2).

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Symptoms of the disease vary from person to person, but they include the following (2):

  • Severe skin rash
  • Digestive problems (pain, gas, diarrhea, weight loss, etc.)
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Muscle cramps
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Growth problems in children
  • Seizures
  • Tingling sensation in legs
  • Mouth sores
  • Missed menstrual periods

What To Do About It

There is no cure for celiac disease, so the primary step for treating it is simply eliminating gluten from the diet. However, this does not always mean that all the symptoms go away, and all the nutrient deficiencies are corrected. Luckily, there is a variety of supplement types available to help those suffering from the disease to receive more adequate health support.

Multivitamins

Many of the symptoms characteristic of celiac disease, like insomnia, hypertension, anxiety, obesity, and headaches, are actually primarily caused by nutritional deficiencies. People suffering from the disease tend to be deficient in iron, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. That being said, multivitamins make up for the deficiencies caused by celiac disease and prevent further complications. This is especially true of vitamins made from concentrated whole foods rather than the synthetic versions (4). Vitamin B supplements are a good recommendation for this, as they have been proven to raise levels of vitamins B6, B12, and folate in the body, as well as reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is linked to heart disease in people with celiac disease (5).

Digestive Enzymes

Enzymes are a necessity for every function in the body, but the important ones in this case are in the digestive system, the immune system, the blood stream, liver, and pancreas. Now, the pancreas is what naturally produces these enzymes, but they can also be found in raw fruits and vegetables, along with supplements in pill form. DPP-IV is a type of protein found in certain digestive enzymes that has various functions in the body, but its most important function is its assistance in breaking down gluten (3). It works to maintain normal inflammatory responses to gluten, helping to improve the digestion and utilization of gluten in the body, rather than just letting it wreak havoc. Thus, supplementing our diets with these kinds of digestive enzymes will help to ensure proper nutrient absorption to combat deficiencies caused by celiac disease. This is a good supplement if one were to unintentionally consume gluten or wanted to eat one food that happened to contain gluten (4).

Essential Fatty Acids – Omega-3 & Omega-6

These fatty acids are considered “essential” because the body needs them to function, but the body cannot produce them on its own (4). Those suffering from celiac disease tend to be deficient in omega-3 and omega-6, which work to help control inflammation and blood clotting, as well as prevent heart disease. There are high concentrations of essential fatty acids located in the brain, but those with celiac disease can easily have lower levels, risking consequences such as fatigue, poor memory, and mood swings (1). It is important to combat this by consuming foods rich in omega-3, like salmon, and taking additional supplements (4).

Omega-7

Though this is a lesser-known essential fatty acid, it is extremely important and should therefore not be left out because it is responsible for supporting the health of the mucous membranes in the digestive system. You can find omega-7 in sea buckthorn oil and reap its beneficial powers of protecting, replenishing, moisturizing, and restoring. Omega-7 is especially beneficial for those who are just beginning to restrict their gluten intake because whatever gluten does enter the body will challenge these membranes, and omega-7 will be significantly helpful for repairing any damage done to them and keeping them nourished (4).

Disclaimer

As beneficial as they are, these supplements are not miracle drugs, and they will not offer much benefit unless gluten is strictly avoided. Keeping that in mind, consult with your doctor before beginning any supplement regimen, and then it is suggested that one is not begun until after three weeks of no gluten, so the intestines have a chance to return to proper functioning (4).

Image: Biopsy of en:small bowel showing en:coeliac disease manifested by blunting of en:villi, crypt hyperplasia, and en:lymphocyte infiltration of crypts, consistent with Marsh classification III. Released into public domain on permission of patient. -- Samir 11:23, 13 August 2006 (UTC). Access the original Image information here: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coeliac_path.jpg

References (click to show/hide)

  1. Anderson, Jane. "Untreated Celiac Disease Can Cause Malnutrition." About.com. About.com, 2014. Web. <http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/commoncomplicationsofcd/a/Untreatd-Celiac-Disease-Can-Cause-Malnutrition.htm>.
  2. "Celiac Disease." WebMD. WebMD, LLC, 2012. Web. <http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/celiac-disease/celiac disease>.
  3. "DPP-IV Forte™." Kirkman. Kirkman® Group, Inc, 2011. Web. <http://kirkmanlabs.com/ProductKirkman/86/1/DPP-IVForteand/>.
  4. Gould, Nicole, RD, LD. Supplements for Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  5. "Homocysteine Levels and Heart Disease Risk." WebMD. WebMD, LLC, 2014. Web. <http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/homocysteine-risk>.

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