01 May Is Gluten a problem? Celiac and Gluten Awareness
Did you know May is National Celiac Awareness Month?
I talk about my personal history with Hashimoto’s a lot… but did you know I also have Celiac Disease.
Given the prevalence of Celiac disease in our world, I’m excited to shed some light on the subject–and more importantly, the well-documented connection between Celiac and Hashimoto’s disease!
What is Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity?
As of 2019, 1 in 133 people suffer from Celiac autoimmune disease, and numbers continue to rise. While awareness surrounding this common disease has sky-rocketed in the last several years, confusion and misinformation remains strong.
Although frequently mistaken for a gluten allergy or sensitivity, Celiac disease is slightly different. (There’s also a lot of emerging science around a condition called “Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity”…but I’ll get into that another time. ) Fundamentally, Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition that occurs when there is an immune response to the gluten protein that causes damage to a person’s small intestines. There are multiple causes of Celiac disease, including poor farming practices, GMO’s, nutrient deficiencies, leaky gut, and more.
There is also a lot of emerging evidence around a condition called “Non-Celiac Gluten/Wheat Sensitivity“ that can look very similar to Celiac Disease. Needless to say, living with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. The good news is that by adopting a gluten-free diet and optimizing gut health, symptoms often resolve on their own!
Have you (or someone you love) been diagnosed with Celiac disease? While it can feel like a heart-breaking diagnosis, there is good news: it can be managed with simple diet and lifestyle changes!
Here’s how to start:
- Gluten-Free Diet – Step #1 is to adopt a gluten-free diet. Focus on whole foods that are naturally free of gluten. Be on the lookout for sneaky products that contain gluten, like soy sauce, dressings, condiments, etc. ALWAYS read ingredient labels. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find gluten-free-friendly restaurants and food alternatives in today’s world.
- Gluten-Free Products – In addition to food, eliminate all products that contain gluten. It’s important to check all cosmetics, lotions, hair products, detergents, etc. Instead, opt for gluten-free household and personal products! You can use EWG.org for a list of non-toxic products.
- Gut Health – Focus on restoring and maintaining a healthy gut. Make it a priority to consume plenty of gut-healthy foods, like fresh bone broth, raw honey, sauerkraut, and collagen.
- Stress Management – Stress is the cause of all illness, so it’s essential to manage ALL stress levels- mental, physical, and emotional. Pay close attention to the following stressors: emotional triggers, unhealthy relationships, overcommitment, over-exercising, undereating, processed and refined foods, excess caffeine and/or alcohol, and poor sleep.
Although Celiac disease is triggered by gluten consumption, it’s still an autoimmune disease at the root. By implementing these dietary and lifestyle tips, you can reduce your symptoms drastically!
The Celiac-Hashimoto’s Connection
Arguably the most shocking news about Celiac disease is its direct correlation to Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease. This undeniable connection is due to something called the gut-thyroid axis.
As the name suggests, this axis connects the gut and thyroid organ, creating a close relationship between the two. This is why there is such a significant number of Hashimoto’s patients, who also suffer from Celiac disease. And, vice versa.
According to one study, there are even multiple shared symptoms of Celiac disease and Hashimoto’s, including:
- Weight fluctuations
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Hair loss
It might be a surprise to learn that many people with Celiac disease also suffer from Hashimoto’s. And, vice versa! How can that be? All credit is due to the gut-thyroid connection!
The integrity of your gut and that of your thyroid go hand-in-hand. When your gut health suffers, it directly impacts your thyroid function. When your thyroid doesn’t work as it should, neither does the gut.
All this to say: it’s important to give a little extra love to your gut and thyroid! Here’s how you can start:
- Manage stress (physical and emotional) and make sleep/rest a priority.
- Eliminate gluten, as well as other processed, refined foods from your diet.
- Eat enough calories, daily- especially those rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, copper, selenium, and B vitamins.
- Move every day- walk, jog, dance, you name it.
Did you know gluten is found in many foods and products other than wheat, pasta and breads?
Gluten has been shown to create an inflammatory response in those with Celiac Disease and NCGS (Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity). In these individuals, eliminating gluten from the diet (and lifestyle) is a necessity!
To thoroughly cut out gluten, you have to be aware of everywhere it’s hiding and lurking!
Gluten is also found in the following grains, including
- Einkorn wheat
Additional, gluten can be found in these additives and products as well:
- Modified Food Starch
- Transglutaminase meat glue + tenderizer
- Malt Extract or Malt Vinegar
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Alcohol or spirits distilled from gluten-containing grains
- Soy Sauce (unless is 100% gluten-free or traditional Temari)
- Gluten used in cosmetics or personal care products
- Gluten used in envelope glue
But, that’s not all.
Potential immune reaction can occur with other foods or grains that have a similar protein structure to gluten or are over-consumed on a gluten-free diet:
- Casein (milk protein)
- Tapioca + Cassava
Not everyone has a “gluten reaction” to these cross-reactants, but because they don’t inherently contain gluten themselves, some people are unaware of their potential to trigger the immune system in a similar fashion to the gluten protein. A skilled functional medicine practitioner can help identify cross-reactants through testing or elimination diets.
Supporting Loved Ones
Do you have a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with Celiac disease?
When struggling with Celiac disease, like many other autoimmune conditions, it can feel like you’re all alone. If you know someone with Celiac disease, showing a little support can go a long way!
Here’s how you can best support those with Celiac disease:
- When eating out, offer to look up and suggest delicious restaurants that offer gluten-free menus. .com is a great resource!
- When hosting a party or gathering, provide gluten-free options for those who eat a gluten-free diet. Just be sure there is NO cross-contamination!
- Educate yourself on Celiac disease and be aware of ALL gluten-containing foods and products.
- When all else fails, ask your loved ones how you can best support them in their Celiac journey. There’s no shame in asking!
Do you suspect you’re struggling with Hashimoto’s and/or Celiac disease? If so, it’s essential to work with a trusted practitioner, who can provide you with the appropriate information and guidance about lab tests for diagnosis and treatment, as well as encouragement and resources along the way!
At the end of the day, they are both autoimmune conditions and the holistic approach can help by addressing the MindBodySpirit imbalances and the root cause of the underlying immune dysfunction.
Given my personal and professional history with Hashimoto’s AND Celiac Disease, I’ve devoted my life to helping others heal and restore their mental and physical health. For expert guidance and empathic support, reach out and learn about how we can work together!