What is Celiac?
Celiac, not to be confused with gluten intolerance, is a disease. Celiac disease is a chronic immune disorder that targets the digestive system and harms the small intestine, and is triggered by ingesting gluten. Celiac can cause long-lasting digestive problems and keep your body from getting all the nutrients it needs. Long term, it can contribute to the development of auto-immune issues and even cancer. It afflicts approximately 1% of the population worldwide, with Finland having the highest incidence.
What does Celiac feel like? What are the symptoms?
Often the symptoms of Celiac are digestive upset, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all.
How do you know if you have Celiac?
Celiac is often genetic, so a family history may be helpful in narrowing down the causes of your symptoms. If you suspect you have Celiac, your health practitioner will perform blood tests, possibly a skin biopsy, or genetic testing; but the best way to completely confirm the diagnosis is with a small intestine biopsy.
What is the treatment?
To date, there is only one treatment for Celiac – complete avoidance of all foods containing gluten. Gluten is a protein found in most grains, including wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, and others. Gluten-free substitutes include rice, corn, oats, and quinoa. Nut or chickpea flours are also often used. Lots of prepared and processed foods contain gluten, so be mindful and read food labels for ingredients!
What is the difference between Celiac and gluten intolerance?
As I mentioned, Celiac is a disease; an incurable one, at that. As such, it lasts a lifetime. Gluten intolerance or sensitivity can come and go and is often influenced by the condition of your microbiome – whether your gut is healthy or not – and the level of your exposure to gluten. Also, all grains are not made equal. Some, like triticale (which happens to be the wheat most commonly used in Canada), have a very high concentration of gluten, and can affect your ability to digest it well.
What else do I need to know?
If you are suffering the long-term effects of either Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, in addition to refraining from consuming gluten, there are some supplements that may be helpful in maintaining a healthy gut and reducing the severity of symptoms:
- You may need to supplement with micronutrients such as iron, vitamin D, vitamins B6 and B12, and zinc
- Digestive enzymes – to improve digestion and absorption of food
- Probiotics – to balance your microbiome
- L-glutamine, Slippery Elm/Marshmallow – to heal the lining of your gut
Click here for my tasty gluten-free lemon bar recipe!
If you’re curious about how gluten may be impacting your gut health, request a free consultation with me below!
Cindy Solkin is a Nutritionist at BodaHealth in Vancouver, British Columbia.