Digestive complaints are among the most common reasons for doctor and hospital visits. Natural Solutions for Digestive Health (Sterling Publishing, 2014), by doctors Jillian Sarno Teta and Jeannette Bessinger, aims to offer anyone suffering from chronic or intermittent gut disorders the relief they seek. This excerpt from chapter 21, “Celiac Disease,” outlines some natural remedies for celiac disease.
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Celiac disease is an inherited, autoimmune disease in which the immune system, upon exposure to gluten, attacks and destroys portions of the small intestine. This destruction sets the stage for chronic inflammation, malabsorption, malnutrition, and a cascade of other health consequences, including anemia, infertility, skin rashes, tooth problems, thinning of the bones and increased likelihood of particular cancers.
Celiac disease is the clearest example we have today that demonstrates the power of food as medicine. When you remove offending foods—in this case, gluten and gluten-containing products—and replace them with other foods, you can begin to heal. In addition to swapping out and replacing offending foods, other nutritional strategies can be used to help soothe and nourish the body.
Eat warm, cooked food. If you have been newly diagnosed with celiac disease, it is best to eat most of your food cooked and warm, instead of raw, because it is easily digestible, is soothing and helps reduce inflammation faster. After you’ve completed our Gut Restoration Program, and your symptoms are stable, you can start to rotate raw food into your diet.
Avoid the trap of gluten-free baked goods. It is easy to feel deprived when you are diagnosed with celiac disease. You may be thinking, “no more pizza, no more bread, no more cookies,” and turn to all the gluten-free versions of those foods for comfort. The problem with this strategy is that gluten-free versions are high in refined carbohydrates and low in fiber and protein. They also lack nutrition. A diagnosis of celiac presents you with a unique opportunity to start eating the diet humans were designed to eat: vegetables, fruit, proteins and healthy fats.
Incorporate coconut products. Coconut is rich in fiber and antimicrobial compounds that help keep pathogenic organisms at bay. In addition, the fatty acids found in coconut provide energy to the cells that line the small intestine and help maintain good gut health.
Have bone broth once a week at the very least. Bone broth contains amino acids, minerals and collagen-building factors that your body can use to repair the lining of the small intestine. It’s one of the best foods you can eat to heal your gut and keep it healthy over the long term.
Because the treatment of celiac disease boils down to avoiding gluten for the rest of your life, you will have to make some significant lifestyle adjustments; but if you have celiac, there is no reason to feel overwhelmed or alone. Support for people with this disease is growing by leaps and bounds, and there are plenty of organizations that offer help on how to advocate for yourself and spread awareness.
Find support. Celiac disease is the most common autoimmune disease in the United States, and there are multiple support groups in most regions of the country.
Don’t be shy about advocating for yourself. Whether you are at a party, dining out at a restaurant or on the road, you want to be sure that any food you eat is gluten-free.
Read labels on everything. Many products that come into contact with your skin, such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, makeup and body wash, contain gluten. Avoid these as well.
Read the labels on your pet’s food too. Breathing in the dust from gluten-containing pet kibble is a source of gluten exposure. Luckily, there are many gluten-free and grain-free options available for our furry friends.
Supplements and Herbs
Because one of the major consequences of celiac disease is malabsorption of nutrients, it makes sense to replenish your body with vitamins and minerals in order to compensate for the deficit.
Multivitamin and multi-mineral supplementation. Because malnutrition is a feature of celiac disease, you will have to replenish your stores with nonsynthetic, food-based multivitamins and multi-minerals, because they are easier to absorb and tend to be gentler on the system.
Curcumin. A powerful anti-inflammatory herb, curcumin is a known antioxidant that reduces body-wide inflammation and soothes the gut. Take 2 grams, in capsule or powder form, twice daily.
Digestive enzymes and probiotics. Consider long-term supplementation with digestive enzymes and probiotics to help with malabsorption issues, low enzyme and acid output and lack of digestive fire.
Vitamin D. People with celiac disease typically have very low levels of vitamin D. Take at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily (capsules, drops, or gel tabs).
Fish oil. Take 3 to 4 grams of fish oil every day in order to reduce inflammation, improve nerve signaling and conduction, and help heal the lining of the small intestine.
Ask Your Doctor
Celiac is an inherited condition, which means your parents carry the genes and you can pass them to your children, so have everyone in your family tested for celiac.
Consider a bone scan (DEXA scan). Osteoporosis is a major consequence of celiac disease, and a bone scan will let you know if this is something you have to address.
Have your vitamin D, vitamin B12, and folate levels checked. If you have celiac disease, the levels of these nutrients may be low. If your vitamin D level is less than 50, take a supplement, even though 50 is in the “normal” range. Normal does not equal optimal. Optimal levels are between 50 and 90, and if you are not in that range, you may take up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. After three months, get your levels rechecked to make sure they are increasing.
Reprinted with permission from Natural Solutions for Digestive Health© 2014 by Dr. Jillian Sarno Teta and Jeannette Bessinger, CHHC, Sterling Publishing Co. Photograph by Jeannette Bessinger.Buy this book from our store: Natural Solutions for Digestive Health.