Celiac Disease Symptoms, Diet and Nutritional Supplements

Gluten enteropathy, more commonly known as Celiac disease, afflicts the intestines and entire digestive system and is caused by an abnormal reaction (allergy) to gluten, a very common compound found in a large variety of foods. Gluten is a common protein that is found wheat, barley, rye, and in many oat products.

In addition to the digestive system, Celiac disease can affect other vital organs including the thyroid gland, the pancreas (which can lead to diabetes), and the entire nervous system. While the affects of Celiac disease are most notable in the intestines, it may affect one or more of the body organs and/or systems mentioned above.

Celiac Symptoms

The exact symptoms of Celiac are difficult to pinpoint as Celiac demonstrates itself differently in each individual with the disease. Some of the more common symptoms include diarrhea, chunky and foul-smelling stools, noticeable weight loss, pain in the abdomen, bloating and gas, joint pain, aching bones, muscle cramping, skin rashes, infertility, and seizures in severe cases. Internal examinations of individuals affected with Celiac disease reveals that the small intestine lining is sometimes severely damaged, especially the central section of the small intestines called the jejunum. Individuals who let Celiac go too long without treatment may end up suffering from a number of conditions including anemia, malaise, weight loss, osteoporosis, and even a few forms of cancer. Other byproducts of Celiac may include anxiety, depression, and other emotional conditions.

Nutrition supplements that may be useful for individuals with Celiac disease

Since malabsorption is a common side effect of celiac disease, those suffering from the condition may also suffer from a variety of nutritional deficiencies. Many Celiac sufferers who struggle with malabsorption are deficient of the following nutrients:

  • Essential Fatty Acids
  • Iron
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Folic Acid
In some instances, those with Celiac disease may suffer from Zinc malabsorption which leads to zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency may even occur in Celiac disease with people who are in remission. New Celiac sufferers should see a medical doctor to determine if they are nutrient deficient. Other Celiac patients may consider supplementing with a complete multivitamin that contains essential minerals. It has also been recommended that Celiac sufferers with a specific deficiency should supplement with that nutrient.

Left untreated, vitamin D deficiency can cause celiac sufferers to develop osteomalacia, or unnatural bone mineralization. While it has been suggested that vitamin D supplementation may help fight vitamin D deficiency, thus increasing bone density, it has not been proven that supplementation will eliminate the risk of bone fracture.

Even when a person with celiac eliminates gluten from their diet, it is possible that they will develop small deficiencies in their diet. However, those who do not eliminate gluten from their diet are likely to develop much more severed nutrient deficiencies than those who strictly avoid gluten. Celiac disease is a very complex condition. Consequently, it is recommended that people with Celiac should consult with a doctor in treating their condition.

Another problem common among people with Celiac disease is a deficiency in digestive enzymes. This means that the intestinal systems of Celiac sufferers often do not produce adequate digestive secretion. However, there is not enough evidence to determine whether enzyme supplementation is or is not an effective remedy for this symptom.

It is important to recognize that no amount of supplementation will be beneficial without strick avoidance of gluten. Some professionals even suggest that any type of supplementation regiment should not be attempted until at least 3 weeks after gluten has been removed from the diet. This will allow for the villi located in the intestine to grow back and become functional again.

Literature

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Patel RS, Johlin FC Jr, Murray JA. Celiac disease and recurrent pancreatitis. Gastrointest Enterology 1999;50:823-7.
Basha B, Rao S, Han ZH, Parfitt, AM. Osteomalacia due to vitamin D depletion: neglected consequence of intestinal malabsorption. Am J Med 2000;108(4):291-300.
Crofton RW, Glover SC, Ewen SWB, et al. Zinc absorption in celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis: a test of small intestinal function. Am J Clin Nutr 1983;38:700-12.
Solomons NW, Rosenberg IH, Sandstead HH. Zinc nutrition in celiac sprue. Am J Clin Nutr 1976;29:371-5.
Carroccio A, Iacono G, Montalto G, et al. Pancreatic enzyme therapy in childhood celiac disease. Dig Dis Sci 1995;40:2555-60.
Connon JJ. Celiac disease. In: Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1994, 1062.

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