Celiac disease is more common than you might think. It is the body’s inability to digest gluten a protein by product from wheat, which is in most baked and packaged goods. The gluten causes inflammation to the small intestine, which then causes pain. People with IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome may have it because of celiac or another food allergy.
Celiac Means Abdominal Pain
Symptoms are digestive-related initially, and the longer you go without treating the disease, the more symptoms you will have as a result of not absorbing the needed vitamins and minerals. This is technically called Malabsorption. When you do not get enough vitamins and minerals because your intestines aren’t working, a variety of symptoms will occur.
The longer you have celiac disease and don’t acknowledge it, the worse you will get as your villi in your intestines begin to flatten. This is what prevents absorption of needed nutrients, and also is why food gets passed through so quickly — because the villi cannot squeeze properly.
Too Much Time in the Bathroom
The most common symptoms include bloating, gas, diarrhea, and fatigue. The digestive system can also become more constipated causing nausea and vomiting. These are common symptoms for many illnesses, but when you see them regularly you should start to make note of them and what you ate.
Gluten Adds the Sponginess to Bread
An American diet consists largely of carbohydrates. Many of those come from white flour, and white flour has gluten. Gluten is what makes bread spongy, chewy and gives it a soft texture sometimes. It does not make it more delicious, and has no flavor.
Abdominal Pain Comes from Inflammation
Gluten chemically when is broken down, but does not always break down completely. This means pieces of it are left to float around blocking receptors and binding to other cells. This interferes not only with digestion, but may also cause problems from the mild — such as bloating after eating pizza — to something as significant as IBS, in the case of celiac and Crohn’s sufferers.
Later symptoms can be anemia, osteoporosis, and there is always a mental component since the digestive system and brain and intrinsic. According to the National Institute of Health you may have issues with memory, fine motor skills, anxiety and even attention deficit disorders or ADHD.
High White Blood Cell Count
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder which is chronic and lifelong. Auto-immune disorders are inflammatory and your body reacts as if it is allergic to itself. Healthy cells become attacked by immune cells. People with an autoimmune disorder often have an irregularly high white blood cell count.
You may also notice joint pain, stiffness, and regular lower fevers/elevated temperatures. If your body is normally the standard 98.6 your temperature may go up to 99-100. This is not considered a “fever,” a fever is a body temperature over 100.
Joint pain and stiffness can happen early in the morning making it difficult to get out of bed, or it can suddenly flare up. It’s important to note that these symptoms are also common for many other disorders, but Celiac sufferers have the digestive issues first.
Medication for Abdominal Pain
Celiac seems to be a genetic disease. Anti-inflammatory medications can be used during flare ups. There are also anti-inflammatory foods you can eat to help minimize and gain control of your inflammation to help your body heal. But the best treatment is to avoid the wheat and gluten.
Don’t Freak Out
Wheat and gluten is unfortunately in many foods, even those you wouldn’t expect. So you will need to read all the ingredients. This may sound exhausting, and you’re probably already tired. But eventually you will just buy the same products and know what is ok and what isn’t.
Ginger is a known and reputable anti-inflammatory food. It can also be taken as a mild antihistamine. Ginger is often used in Asian dishes by grating or slicing, but can be juiced by a juicer in homemade vegetable and fruit juices. It is found in the produce section of your grocery store.
The main treatment is to avoid the thing you are allergic to, which for celiac sufferers is wheat/gluten. This intolerance is the cause of the problem so removing it from your diet is the main course of treatment. This doesn’t mean you can no longer have pancakes, but you will have to make them differently.
You Can Still Have Cake
That cake you just ate could be the cause of your discomfort. But don’t worry — you can have your cake and eat it too. There are lots more options for gluten sufferers than there used to be.
Find Flour Alternatives
Flour alternatives to gluten or wheat are used in place of typical all-purpose flours which are always with wheat and gluten. It is a challenge when going out to eat because of this, but it is also very common now to get bread, pizza and many other foods without wheat.
Shop the Gluten Free Aisle
Some all-purpose flour alternative examples are rice, sorghum, soy, tapioca, corn and millet. You can find these more and more in grocery stores, and always at specialty stores such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Wegmans. There are special isles just for gluten free products.
Gluten Free Brands
Some popular brands who make gluten free foods are Udis, Gluten Free Bake House, Sans Gluten, Enviro-Kids, Glutino and Amy’s. These are just a few options. But there are more and more available all the time. You can find these in most stores and online from big retailers like Amazon.com.
Celiac and other autoimmune disorders have become more and more common. Doctors and nutritionists are recommending wheat elimination diets to test if someone’s symptoms improve or not. It is a simple and non-evasive way to see if further testing is needed.
Mark your Calendars
Gluten can take several months to leave your system completely. Most elimination diets are designed to be implemented for a week to 10 days at a time. Mark your calendar when you begin and when you plan to end, and be dedicated to eating clean during this time.
Other symptoms include rashes, inflammation in your skin, and mild skin conditions. These can be from an allergy or even from not getting enough of the vitamins that keep skin healthy. It isn’t always serious looking, it may look like a sunburn.
If after eliminating wheat some of these symptoms improve, your doctor may decide you are intolerant. To diagnose you as celiac they will also screen your skin, listen to your abdomen, check your teeth and take a complete history.
ADHD & Celiac
ADHD has become more common in children, and some are wondering if it is from wheat intolerance. Sometimes it is the wheat or gluten and a removal of the food from the diet for a few months may determine if this is the case. It isn’t always the case of course. The Brain-Gut connection is often overlooked.
Some of the symptoms you may notice such as being unable to focus, being easily distracted and short term memory problems may act up when you have eaten a lot of bread products. These symptoms of course are common for many issues. But they signify an imbalance in the brain and usually the gut as well. It may be surprising.
Brain & Gut
ADHD has been tied to celiac sufferers because the gut and brain are technically made from the same material. During the early stages of fetal development nerves that are in the gut and brain originated from the same tissue that divided.
One piece ties to the central nervous system, and the other to the enteric system, later they are connected by the Vagus nerve which means “wandering.” This is because it meanders from the brain stem, to the neck and eventually ends in the abdomen.
Foods you can and should eat include whole foods; this is simply, real food. Not stuff that’s purchased ready-to-eat, but food you make yourself. Also include fruits, vegetables, meats, and pure dairy products without additives since many can have wheat added.
A Mediterranean diet is high in plants and lean proteins and low on wheat and gluten. It is typically recommended by health experts as one of the best diets a person can eat to be healthy.
Where’s the Beef
Beef has received mixed reviews from health experts, but the one thing everyone agrees on is it is high in iron and it is the easier to absorb kind because it is animal based or heme iron. Plant based iron (non-heme) is not as easy to absorb, especially for autoimmune sufferers.
Though you should still limit the amount of beef in your diet, experts recommend it at least 1-2 times per week. Fish and chicken are also high in iron and are less inflammatory than beef when eaten more regularly. Non-dairy options such as Almond Milk can be used in shakes.
Some additional anti-inflammatory foods you can add to your diet to help your body heal are: avocados, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, onions, garlic and green tea. These foods should be in your diet daily.
Soups rich in beta-carotene help boost immunity as well as fight free radicals. Auto-immune sufferers, like those with celiac, are more likely to get sick from illnesses such as the common cold or the flu.
Taste the Rainbow
A combination of vitamin C, vitamin A, Omega- 3 fatty acids, and Calcium works together to turn off the inflammation response. The result of eating foods rich in these vitamins is similar to the way anti-inflammatory medication works.
Sometimes Pills are Necessary
Sometime medication is necessary for when you have done a lot of damage, even temporarily. There are also vitamins. Nutritionists, however, believe absorption works better from natural foods.
Changing Your Diet
Changing your diet may sound like a huge burden, so start by listing what you normally eat. Then you can find alternatives to those foods, whether it’s the same food such as pasta but made with gluten free flour, or even eliminating the product completely.
Peanut Butter Cookies
And don’t forget some of your favorite cookies can be made without flour. Peanut butter cookies can be made with just peanut butter, brown sugar and an egg.
Gluten Free Cake
Cake is rarely anyone’s friend, with the exception of long-distance runners. However, gluten-free options are available at many bakeries and bakery departments in grocery stores. You can even make your own with prepacked mixes. Mixes by several organic vendors and even Betty Crocker can be found at Target and Walmart stores.
Baking Isn’t for Everyone
Of course if your baking skills are like this, you may want to leave it to the professionals. Baking is more technical than cooking, and there is a lot of science involved. Practice can eventually make perfect if you have a good sense of humor.
You Can Do it
Don’t give up hope just because you have celiac disease. It will take some adjustment, but eventually your life will be be more functional because you will feel so much better. And when you feel better, your life just runs more smoothly.
You can be healthy by speaking to a nutritionist, confirming with a doctor and changing your diet. Don’t give up hope. Gluten free diets are technically healthier for people for several reasons, but that’s another story.