Coeliac Disease - I just had to talk about it today...
WHY I HAD TO TALK ABOUT THIS TODAY
After having three people present to me in clinic this week, as either; recently diagnosed or in the process of finding out they had coeliac disease (or Celiac). I found, I just had to write about coeliac disease today.
I sent off one of my patients this week to a local GP to assess if she needed any further testing for her ongoing, low grade fatigue and sort of blaa - Yes she said “blaa… bad” digestion. - I get all sorts of descriptions! This GP ordered some blood tests and guess what? She had the gene for coeliac and was advised to get further testing.
A diagnosis can be hard at first, however it is a lot better than living with symptoms for years and not knowing what is wrong.
THE BRIEF ON WHAT IS COELIAC?
As you may already know coeliac disease is a chronic digestive disorder caused by a hereditary intolerance to gluten, a component of wheat, durum, spelt & semolina. This is also found in rye, oat products, barley and kamut amoung other wheat products. It is also found in many processed foods, sauces and condiments.
Prior to diagnosis most people are happily going along eating gluten with no idea that it is causing us; fatigue both chronic low grade and extreme. It may first present as chronic diarrhea, weight loss and pain along with symptoms of abdominal swelling, nausea, yellow stools that float, depression, muscle cramps, joint and bone pain. Children may present with poor weight gain and growth, vomiting and burning skin.
How CAN I GET A DIAGNOSIS FOR COELIAC?
If you suspect you may have coeliac you can make an appointment with your GP. They may do a blood test first. (You need to be eating gluten and wheat at the time of the test) If this test is positive or you have other symptoms, the GP may recommend further testing such as a gastroscopy where a bowel biopsy is taken. Coeliac Australia - Diagnosis
NON-COELIAC GLUTEN/WHEAT SENSITIVITY
There is also a condition known as Non-Coeliac Gluten/wheat Sensitivity (NCGS or NCWS). These people also experience symptoms that may be much like coeliacs, however they test negative to coeliac. They often present with low grade fatigue for no apparent reason “brain fog”, depression, digestive symptoms and many of the symptoms already mentioned. These are the people I see a lot in clinic who are also often confused about their food intolerance. Once they remove gluten, wheat and by-products from their diet, miraculously they feel better. You can do what is called a gluten challenge.
NCGS Link - Celiac Disease Foundation
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR GUT
Gluten effects the small hair like projections called, micro-vill found in the small intestine which are responsible for absorbption of nutrients. This is a serious problem and can lead to long term nutrient deficiencies. This is why it is so important to not only avoid foods that contain gluten, but to also increase the healing of these micro-villi in the gut while avoiding these foods.
Many people will, once diagnosed, be put under the guidance of a dietitian. Which is important as it is imperative that there is clear education around what can and cannot be consumed. There are meal plans here at Coeliac Disease Foundation. Once you are clear on what can and cannot be consumed and how to implement this….it is important to get started on a gut healing protocol.
HOW CAN A NATUROPATH HELP?
A naturopath can help speed up the healing process of gut and correct the balance of beneficial and non beneficial bacteria. Sometimes we test the microbiome to find out what is actually in and out of balance. We can also address specific nutrient deficiencies that may be contributing to your symptoms and work on your low energy and mood. - As has potentially not absorbing nutrients for a long while prior to diagnosis, even with a ‘great’ diet, the damaged cells need to be repaired.
HOW DO WE HEAL THE GUT?
There is no known cure for coeliac disease, therefore it is imperative to avoid gluten to allow the gut to heal.
Here are some really basic principles to get you started…
Principle number 1
Avoid all foods that contain gluten (found in wheat, rye, barley and oats) also found in sauces and condiments & processed foods. You can find a list at
Principle number 2
Eat a whole food nutrient rich diet rich diet to give you optimal nutrients. Eat a rainbow - Colourfull & green leafy vegetables in each meal. If not vegetarian, a little red and white meat, oily fish for omega 3 essential fatty acids (mackrell, salmon, tuna). Nuts and seeds - almonds, cashews, sunflower, flax seeds, pepita, LSA & trail mix - check for gluten contamination.
Principle number 3
Include fiber daily. A diet rich in fiber and pre-biotics is food for the benificial bacteria in your gut to support the microbiome (yes the buzz word at the moment!).
Principle number 4
Avoid chemicals in your food. Tip: Eat Organic & Eat food that looks like food.
While so much healing is going on it is best to avoid chemicals in your food. This includes chemicals found in tap water. It is important to get a high quality water filter that filters out any added chemicals and microbes, it also remineralises the water for higher mineral content.
Principle number 5
Address your stress. - It is also important to note that when found in older patients, this condition has been seen to be triggered by physical trauma and emotional stress. If stress is a trigger for you, finding ways of dealing addressing it through counseling or seeing psychologist, meditation, yoga and gentle exercise is recommended.
HERBS FOR HEALING
What I love about treating this condition is the array of herbs available to help. Herbs that I prefer with the least side effects include:
Aloe Vera - helps to soothe the membranes, reduce inflammation and irritation of the gut wall.
Slippery elm - less side effects of bloating than psyllium found in Metamucil. Coats the gut wall, healing and protecting from damage while feeding the beneficial bacteria. It is known as a wound healer.
Liquorice - contains glycyrrhizan, which soothes and repairs the irritated gut wall. It is also beneficial for fatigue. If you have high blood pressure, it is not recommended.
Peppermint - may relax spasming muscles relieving pain and spasming. - Avoid during constipation.
Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm) - This herb is used to calm the nervous system as well as having a calming effect on the gut. It helps support mood & reduce anxiety.
Chamomile - can be be helpful to support the gut and nervous system. - It is not good for those with an allergy or intolerance to the Asteracae (daisy) family.
Common nutrient deficiencies seen are; Vitamin K, B12, as these are absorbed in the gut. Other nutrients such as B1, Magnesium & Zinc need to be addresses on an individual basis. These can be tested with your GP or with your naturopath, who can also advise you which specific nutrients to have tested.
Many of my clients see so much benefit in a holistic healing program. It is so important to note we looking at addressing specific nutrient deficiencies leading to fatigue and their symptoms. We we also look at healing the digestive system with the appropriate healing foods and herbs to prevent further long term damage. While addressing the big picture and how to manage this through an integrated program of health & wellness. Often we get to a point of such great energy and wellness we don’t know any other way to live!
If you would like any more information on gut health, please feel free to contact me, or book in for a free 10min discovery session.
Health & Wellness to You!
Christine Carley - Naturopath / Herbalist
Christine Carley is a bachelor qualified naturopath supporting her clients with chronic conditions, mental, hormonal and gut health, stress, anxiety, fatigue and sleep. She has a strong commitment to her clients and offers ongoing holistic treatment plans. She has been facilitating trans-personal practices for 17 years. Having experienced a chronic health condition called fibromyalgia or M.E., for many years and since childhood, she is now the most healthy version of herself she has ever been and lives totally pain free. She currently practices at Western Health Collective in Melbourne, Australia and is available for online consultations via SKYPE or FaceTime.
For more on her retreats and holistic wellness program touch here:
03 9687 5670 or (61+) 0409027221