If your body doesn’t respond well to gluten, it can be challenging to avoid the range of products and foods that might trigger an allergic reaction or other unpleasant symptoms. This is especially true if you’ve got celiac disease and your daily quality of life is affected by gluten sneaking into something you didn’t suspect.
Whether you’re dealing with celiac or gluten sensitivity, going gluten-free can be challenging—in more ways than one. But there are ways to manage your gluten-free lifestyle easily, healthfully, and in a way that makes sense to you.
What Is Gluten and Why Can It Be Harmful to Some People?
When going gluten-free, it’s in your best interest to have a solid understanding of what gluten really is as many people just associate gluten with bread. But besides wheat, gluten proteins can also be found in foods containing barley and rye. There are also loads of not so obvious foods (and even beauty and household products) on the market that contain hidden gluten. It can be overwhelming for anyone, so when it comes to avoiding gluten, your best bet is to opt for products that specifically state “gluten-free” (or ‘GF’).
Even those without a gluten sensitivity can have a hard time digesting gluten, and gluten intolerance can show up in different ways and for different reasons. For some, it may come in the form of celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Other people may just be allergic to wheat, which can show itself as hives or abdominal pain. A person’s unique gut flora, hormones, immune health, and genetics can all play a role.
Celiac disease is an , which is a disorder characterized by the immune system fighting itself rather than foreign or toxic invaders. Celiac disease causes gluten to actively damage the small intestine, which can lead to malabsorption of nutrients (more on that below).
People who suspect they are suffering from celiac disease often get tested for the genes HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 to determine if they have the disease. While not everyone who tests positive has the disease, getting the test can still help determine whether celiac is a possibility. Others have an endoscopy to determine whether celiac disease is the culprit.
Those who don’t have celiac disease but still have problems with gluten may have something called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This condition tends to be accompanied by symptoms such as leaky gut and brain fog.
Other symptoms can include bloating, lethargy, mood changes, numbness in the arms and legs, diarrhea, tummy pain, fatigue, and inexplicable skin rashes.
There’s also a link between celiac disease and hormonal imbalance, which is something to keep in mind if you’re having hormonal problems such as hormone-related fertility issues or autoimmune thyroid issues.
If you’re not sure whether you are sensitive to gluten or not, the physicians within the BodyLogicMD network can guide you to a diagnosis that explains your symptoms, whether they are gluten-related or not.
Getting Adequate Nutrients on a Gluten-Free Diet
People with celiac disease often experience nutrient deficiencies. That’s because gluten can damage the small intestine and prevent the absorption of nutrients.
Furthermore, some people who start a gluten-free diet may not get enough nutrients because they’re used to eating gluten-containing foods that have been enriched with vitamins and nutrients. Because many of these foods are fortified, it’s important to get enough vitamin B6, folate, vitamin D, calcium, iron, vitamin B12, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin when going gluten free, according to Very Well Health.
According to the Gluten Intolerance Group, “Inadequate consumption of these nutrients may put individuals at increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, neurological decline and other health problems. It is important to include plenty of nutrient-dense foods in the gluten-free diet, such as: whole grains (e.g. quinoa, gluten-free oats, teff), vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts & seeds, meats and dairy products.”
It’s also important to supplement as necessary in addition to eating healthy, well-rounded foods. If you do use supplements, you should be aware that many contain gluten. You’ll need to read the label or check with a healthcare professional before using.
While some gluten intolerant people use digestive enzymes, it should be noted that there’s not much evidence to suggest that these sorts of supplements can actively contribute to healing or the ability to eat gluten, according to
Many people who suspect they have a problem with gluten benefit from an elimination diet—particularly the low-FODMAP diet, which eliminates (and reintroduces) certain foods in stages, allowing you to identify which foods trigger your reactions. Generally, though, you’ll want to avoid all foods containing wheat, rye, and barley.
You may also want to look into trying BodyLogicMD’s Gluten Support Program. This is a kit composed of five formulas chosen for their ability to support the repair of damaged tissue and revitalize overall health in gluten-sensitive individuals.
You could also talk to your healthcare provider about adding a probiotic supplement, like Pure Probiotic (which is gluten-free), to your daily regimen. In a 2008 study published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Immunology, specific probiotic strains, such as B. lactis, were found to benefit those on a gluten-free diet.
According to the study’s authors, “Inclusion of B. lactis….could be beneficial in cases with, for example, poor response to a gluten-free diet. Moreover, intake of B. lactis might speed up mucosal recovery after adoption of a gluten-free diet or provide protection to the small-intestinal mucosa against the traces of gluten in some supposedly gluten-free products. Thus consumption of B. lactis-containing products by coeliac disease patients could promote the small-intestinal mucosal health of the patient and lead to a general health gain.”
In the end, you have lots of options when it comes to managing a gluten-free lifestyle. While you must be willing to do a little work when it comes to researching which foods you can eat and what products you can use, it can be done. You’re not alone! The physicians within the BodyLogicMD network have advanced training that goes beyond just disease—they can help bring you back to a state of wellness.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.