You sent us your questions and our experts are here to answer them all! For our first session of the Biocard Celiac Home Test Celiac Disease Expert Series, we've called on Sherry Torkos, a pharmacist and author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine to answer your questions all of your questions about nutritional supplements and value-added gluten-free diets.
Enjoy this wonderful insight and if you think of more questions, submit them anytime to email@example.com. All of the questions you see answered below were submitted by readers just like you!
Reader Question #1: I was just diagnosed with celiac disease and there is
a lot of chatter about taking nutritional supplements. How do I know what I
should be taking to help my body recover?
Answer from Sherry: Nutritional supplements can play an important role in optimizing health and helping to correct nutritional deficiencies caused by celiac disease. Prior to diagnosis and the implementation of a strict gluten-free diet, those with celiac disease experience intestinal damage that can range from mild to severe. Since nutrient absorption occurs through the intestine, those with celiac can suffer with malnutrition and deficiency of various nutrients including the B-vitamins (such as B12 and folic acid), vitamins D and E, essential fatty acids, calcium and magnesium. Some signs of nutrient deficiency include anemia, skin rash, fatigue, poor cognitive function, and stunted growth of hair and nails. Additionally, the gluten-free diet, while healthy, can be lacking in certain nutrients, such as fiber and B vitamins.
I would suggest taking a quality multivitamin and mineral supplement and omega-3 fatty acids. If you have been diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia then likely your doctor will have recommended an iron supplement. To boost fiber intake, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, gluten-free whole grains (amaranth, brown rice, rice bran, buckwheat, quinoa, and teft) and nuts and seeds (like chia seed, flaxseed and hemp seed).
Reader Question #2: Is the treatment for celiac different for a child or an adult? Do kids need different types of added nutrition in their diets?
Answer from Sherry: The treatment for celiac disease is the same for adults and children – strict dietary avoidance of gluten. It is more challenging to implement and maintain a gluten-free diet in children. Many children are picky eaters and may not be willing to try new foods. They typically want to eat what their friends are eating plus they are more likely to “cheat” on the diet, not appreciating the potential consequences. Children need adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats along with vitamins and minerals for proper growth and development. It is best to meet with a dietitian or nutritionist to get specific recommendations to help your child meet his/her needs with the gluten-free diet.
Reader Question # 3: Probiotics seem to be on every list of things people with celiac should take. What are they and how will they help me?
Answer from Sherry: Probiotics are also known as friendly or beneficial bacteria that are normally present in the mouth, digestive and urinary tracts, and vaginal area. Probiotics provide many health benefits: They protect against infection from harmful bacteria (yeast and bacteria); aid in detoxification; produce B vitamins; aid digestion; and support immune function. They can improve bowel function and aid both constipation and diarrhea. Those with celiac disease may be deficient in probiotics because of intestinal damage caused by the disease.
Probiotics are present in some fermented dairy foods (live culture yogurt), although the potency and stability in yogurt is questionable. Look for a quality probiotic supplement at your health food store or pharmacy, such as Kyo-Dophilus by Wakunaga. This product contains human strain bacteria, it is tested to survive stomach acid and deliver the beneficial bacteria to the intestine, and it is stable at room temperature, so no refrigeration is required
Reader Question # 4: I'm super B-12 deficient. My doctor said it's from celiac disease and I have to give my gut time to heal. How can I boost my b-12 levels more quickly?
Answer from Sherry: Many people with undiagnosed or newly diagnosed celiac disease are deficient in vitamin B12 because of damage that affects the absorptive surface of the intestine. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also be caused by overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the intestinal tract or low stomach acid levels.
The best dietary sources of vitamin B12 are beef and chicken liver and clams. Smaller amounts are present in lamb, dark chicken meat, beef, tuna, salmon, eggs, milk, and cottage cheese. Absorption from the gut (through food or oral supplements) may be inadequate until your intestines heal, so in the meantime your doctor may prescribe vitamin B12 injections. That is the most efficient way to restore your vitamin B12 levels. The injections are typically done monthly at your doctor’s office. Once you have been on the gluten-free diet and your intestines have healed, look for a vitamin B12 supplement in sublingual form (a tablet that dissolves under the tongue), which is better and more efficiently absorbed into your blood stream, compared to regular tablets that are swallowed and then absorbed through the gut.